The cost of living crisis is impacting millions of people at the moment and many people will be cutting back on nights out and entertainment as a way to save money.
However, it is not impossible to enjoy the occasional treat – there are ways to save on eating out or ordering a takeaway from your favourite restaurants while sticking to a budget.
Here are Which?’s top tips for how to cut the cost of enjoying a restaurant meal – whether you prefer going out or staying at home:
- Sign up to chain restaurant mailing lists to get offers
Joining some chain restaurants’ own clubs or mailing lists can save a lot of money. These tend to be free to sign up for via email, and are run by large chains such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Pizza Express. Customers on a company’s mailing list often get details of special deals sent straight to their inbox as soon as they are launched. For example, Which? found Pizza Express offered a 35 per cent discount for a local restaurant when we tried signing up.
- Bring your own booze
The price of alcoholic drinks can quickly rack up and make up a big portion of the final bill. Diners could cut this expense by bringing their own alcohol to one of the nation’s many BYOB restaurants. Which? previously found that on average, restaurants mark up the price of wine by 167 per cent. A typical bottle of house wine starts from around £15, whereas an equivalent bottle from a supermarket can be found from £5 – though some BYOB restaurants may charge a small corkage fee. Customers can search online for nearby BYOB restaurants, or check the Wine-Pages BYOB directory for listings.
- Order direct from the restaurant
Which? found that when ordering a takeaway, it’s often cheaper to order food directly from a restaurant, rather than through an app delivery service such as Deliveroo or Just Eat. The investigation looked at the price difference between ordering via popular delivery apps and found one meal that cost £11.62 more from an app than it did from the restaurant.
- Don’t pay for water
Establishments that serve alcohol are required by law to give customers free tap water. Which? found that some restaurants charge more than £3.50 for a bottle of mineral water, so people who eat out twice a month could save almost £100 a year by switching to tap.
- Get paid to dine out
Some companies recruit mystery shoppers to eat and drink in pubs, cafes and restaurants – often large chains. Mystery diners are usually paid or gifted the cost of the meal in return for an honest review of their experience. Usually, all that’s required is visiting the restaurant being researched, following ordering instructions, and then filing a report.
- Join dining clubs to get discounts
Loyalty schemes and dining clubs can give diners discounts of up to 50 per cent off at participating restaurants. Tastecard and Gourmet Society both offer a free 90-day trial, meaning customers could get free restaurant discounts for six months by trialling them back to back. Both can be used at more than 6,000 restaurants in the UK.
- Find vouchers and discount codes before you go out
Many restaurants offer vouchers online. For example, Pizza Express regularly runs two-for-one deals on main courses. Consumers can also check newspapers for vouchers. There are also a number of websites, such as VoucherCodes and HotUKDeals, that post deals and discount codes regularly. It can be worth checking daily deal websites, such as Groupon and Wowcher, for restaurant offers too.
- Take advantage of ‘kids eat free’ offers
If dining out as a family, it is worth checking if nearby restaurants offer discounts for children. Many restaurants and cafes run ‘kids eat free’ offers during the school holidays. Which? found several popular chains offered discounts for children at certain times, including Bella Italia, The Real Greek, and Morrisons Cafe.
- Book online
Websites such as OpenTable, Lastminute and 5pm specialise in two-for-one offers, 50 per cent off deals and promotions where wine might be included with a meal. Users can search for the deals currently available nearby, then book a table at their chosen restaurant. On arrival, they simply need to remind the server that the booking was a special deal online.
- Take a doggy bag
Don’t waste leftover food. People commonly over-order in restaurants, so it makes sense to ask for a box or bag to take your leftovers home. This can also save money on lunch the following day.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Home and Services Editor, said:
“The cost of living crisis is putting a huge strain on household budgets and many people are looking to cut down on their spending. However, there are plenty of ways to save money if you still want to treat yourself with the occasional meal out or takeaway.
“There are always discounts and vouchers to be found, especially at popular chains. It’s worth signing up to mailing lists to get the best deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don’t spend more than you have to on extras such as mineral water, and consider dining at one of the many BYOB restaurants to cut the cost of alcohol.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? is highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
- Six ways to save on eating out
- Best Ways to Save Money
- The hidden costs of the food delivery revolution
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce the information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at email@example.com.