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Cost of living crisis: 10 top tips to save money on eating out

Cost of living crisis Diners have lunch outside a restaurant in Didsbury, as the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme continues, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manchester, Britain, August 10, 2020.  REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff
Cost of living crisis: Find out how cut the cost of enjoying a restaurant meal. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters (Jason Cairnduff / reuters)

With the cost of living continuing to rise, eating out is one of the first things most people will try cut back on.

Luckily there are a few ways to save some money on your next meal out. Here are 10 top tips from consumer group Which? for eating out or ordering a takeaway from your favourite restaurants while sticking to a budget.

1. 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% discount for a local restaurant when signing up.

2. 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%.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 10 top tips to save money on tax

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.

3. 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.

4. Don’t pay for water

Establishments that serve alcohol are required by law to give customers free tap water. The consumer body 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.

5. Get paid to dine out

Some companies recruit mystery diners and 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.

6. Join dining clubs to get discounts

Loyalty schemes and dining clubs can give diners discounts of up to 50% off at participating restaurants.

Read more: How to cope with bills out of the blue when you really can’t afford it

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Book online

Websites such as OpenTable, Lastminute and 5pm specialise in two-for-one offers, 50% off deals and promotions where wine might be included with a meal.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: Top tips to save hundreds on food bills

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.

10. 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.

Watch: How to save money on a low income