It is a familiar scene at many restaurant tables: a couple or group laughs and jokes after finishing a meal only to face terrifying silence as the waiter discreetly drops off the bill.
Reviewing the numbers only makes the buzz-kill worse as consumers count and second-guess the prices presented to them.
Restaurants have been in business since ancient times. It is a competitive industry, and the eating establishments that stay in business have learned their numbers well. Built into the dining experience are attractive menu designs, appetizing photographs, waiters with good selling techniques and several courses of dining to navigate.
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Eating out at a restaurant can be a costly experience if consumers aren’t careful. However, there are many ways to ensure that the check at the end of the bill doesn’t make your checks bounce.
Rob York, a video editor at BYU Broadcasting, is passionate about food and knows how to be sensible with his budget.
“My wife and I usually just order a dish and share,” York said. “I mean, you don’t go home with leftovers, but you definitely get plenty for your meal at the restaurant.”
Playing portion size correctly can be key to eating out right. Besides saving money by not buying an excessive amount of food, the bill can stay low and the possibility of overeating diminishes.
Social pressures can add to the frequency of dining-out experiences. Mary Fulton is studying English teaching and is among students who may regret being pressured into spending money by well-meaning friends and associates.
“I usually go out and regret it later because I spend way too much,” Fulton said.
As a result of dining out so often, Fulton has adopted her own methods of keeping prices down.
“At the restaurant I drink water,” Fulton said. “Usually sandwiches are cheaper items on the menu, so if I stick with those I don’t spend too much.”
While navigating the menu carefully can be helpful, there are also ways to literally pay less for the food. There are several deal sites online that focus on getting users deals on dining locally, like Groupon or Living Social.
There are also sites online, like Restaurant.com, that sell discounted gift certificates to restaurants.
Many restaurants have deals built into their marketing campaigns. By providing an email newsletter or a text program, many restaurants, like Happy Sumo, offer monthly offers exclusive to their subscribers.
The most important thing to remember when eating out, however, may be to simply plan ahead. By becoming familiar with the menu and price range of the restaurant beforehand, it can be easier to make wise choices when everyone is waiting for you to order.
“I’m not surprised when the bill comes,” said Colin King, a senior studying photography. “I don’t go and eat if I can’t afford it. When I do eat out, it’s a special thing. I have the money saved up before. I sometimes will look up the menu online before so I know how much things cost. We just plan ahead, Dave Ramsey style.”