Food / Groceries, Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Save Money By Asking For What You Want in a Restaurant

When we go out to eat, I’m frequently annoyed by the menu. I’m not a big eater but most restaurant menus are designed for people with big appetites. This isn’t always a problem; there are doggie bags, after all. But sometimes I’m in a position where I can’t take a doggie bag. Maybe I’m running a lot of errands or I’m on vacation with no refrigerator. Sometimes I want something smaller to eat, but it’s just not to be found.

Things like soup and salad combos are often only available at lunch. Half-portions are almost never available and if they are, it’s at lunch. It’s sometimes difficult to find a sandwich entree that comes with anything other than fries (or nothing at all). I look for these things because, not only are they usually better for me, they are often less expensive. (Sometimes when dining out I’m a little like Sally from the movie, “When Harry Met Sally,” to the exasperation of my dining companions.)

Over the years, though, I’ve learned to simply ask for what I want. Nine times out of ten, I can get it. If, for example, it’s past lunchtime but I’d really like something that’s on the lunch menu, such as a combo or a half portion, I’ll ask. Most of the time they’ll sell it to me. At some places I have to pay a nominal surcharge over the lunch price, but the item is still cheaper than paying for either the dinner version of the entree or for something I didn’t really want.

If I know the restaurant serves huge portions and half portions aren’t on the menu, I’ve been known to just ask for a half portion. I can usually get it for about half the price of the full sized entree. If I’m not in the mood for fries or a side with my sandwich, I’ll ask if they can leave it off. They usually will and charge me anywhere from $1.00 – $2.00 less. If something like a soup/salad combo isn’t on the menu, I’ll ask if I can create one. Many times the restaurant will oblige and charge me less than if I’d ordered the items separately. For breakfast outings, I’ve been known to ask if a three egg omelet can be made with two. I’ve gotten it and been charged seventy-five cents less.

I’ve also learned to look more closely at the menu. Sometimes an option is hiding there that I didn’t see at first glance. For example, I really enjoy our local sandwich shop for lunch, but I don’t always want the bun. The salads that are on the menu aren’t anything like their sandwiches, so I don’t really care for them. For a long time I would just order the sandwich and leave the bun. However, one day I noticed that in the tiny print at the bottom of the menu it says, “Make any sub into a salad.” They’ll dump the meats, cheese, lettuce, and any other condiments into a bowl for you and charge $1.00 less than the price of a sub.

I’ve noticed this with other things. Some menus don’t list a soup and salad combo as a menu item, but in the fine print under the salad or soup option is something like, “Add soup/salad for $1.00 more” which is a savings over ordering both separately. Now when I go places and I don’t see what I want at first glance, I slow down and really read the menu. Sometimes I find the option I want buried somewhere on the menu. Many restaurants are eager to accommodate you, so don’t feel bad about asking if you don’t see what you want. Just always ask politely. Don’t demand or be rude with your server or the counter help. It’s not their fault. If they seem unsure as to whether your request can be granted, ask to speak with the manager. Chances are that unless what you want is completely out of line, someone will work with you to keep your business.

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