Everyone likes to go out to eat, right? Especially parents, whose dinners at home generally involve cutting other people's meat, refereeing sibling squabbles, deflecting requests for candy, and the inability to finish a sentence or eat your food while it's hot.
It's just so pleasant to be seated at a nice quiet restaurant table with good lighting, talking to your spouse or your friends while someone else takes your order, makes your food and brings it right to you ... and then takes the dishes away and washes them (one would assume).
That kind of break is worth the outlay of some cash, yes? I think so. Which is why I took issue with this post on Get Rich Slowly about how to cut corners at swanky restaurants.
The writer, JD, suggests splitting an entree or taking some of it home, sticking to one drink or no drinks, and ordering an appetizer instead of a meal. All good advice, and better for your health as well as your wallet. But here's the thing: If you're going to go to a really nice, high-end restaurant, don't cheap out.
If you're lucky enough to have a great temple of cuisine in your city, you ought to enjoy it. Why fight for a reservation at Le Chateau de Snobby only to restrict yourself to an appetizer and water? By all means, if that's what appeals to you most then order away, but I'd rather spend that $15 (or more) per person plus tip on a full meal at a local spot with interesting, if inexpensive, food.
If Chateau de Snobby is the "it" place in your city and you feel like you just have to go there ... well, you're not the kind of person who's likely to be too concerned about saving money. But if you are, say, a frugal foodie, it's better to save up enjoy the full experience: wine, entree, maybe even dessert (JD suggests bringing a chocolate bar in your purse and eating that on your way home; I say if I am going to blow the calories on something sweet after dinner I'll have it made by a pastry chef and served to me on a pretty plate, thank you).
A better idea from JD, since no one is made of money, is to choose one indulgence, either an appetizer, or wine, or dessert, not all three. Another trick I like is to go to the swanky restaurant for lunch instead of dinner. It costs less, and you often get better service because the place is not as packed.
Speaking of service, you're not going to get a server's best effort if she senses you're scrimping on your bill. While outright rudeness isn't acceptable, your request for more water is not going to be her first priority and she will not be encouraging you to linger.
Of course, the exception to this rule is when the restaurant choice is out of your control, like when a group of people decide to celebrate a birthday at the swankiest place in town. Just make sure you get separate checks so your $20 appetizer and water doesn't end up costing you $50. Or meet for drinks or dessert after.
How do you keep the bill from ballooning at restaurants?
Image via e_calamar/Flickr