The restaurant industry is just like any other and has one main goal in mind: sell, sell, sell! What started out as a simple business model with only minimal competition has become far more sophisticated and competitive. There are restaurants everywhere of every kind and they are now doing everything they can to get a few more dollars from you before you leave their establishment. And now that many of them are bouncing back from being shut down due to the Corona Virus lockdown, they’re probably stepping their game up and really pulling out the big guns! While I agree that we should patron our local restaurants to stimulate the economy, I think that we have to do so with our health in mind and make the right food choices. Here are some of the pitfalls that can affect your pockets, as well as your waistline and several ways to avoid them:
1. All-you-can-eat. While some patrons come out ahead, most restaurant customers spend more than the value they’re receiving. Restaurants are great at filling buffets with inexpensive items that get you full quickly, (bread, salad, soups, etc), and some of the items you actually want may not even be on the buffet. How about this: in order to save pennies and pounds, order something from the menu! This way, you get what you want and you still have room for a drink or dessert if you choose to indulge!
2. Making you wait. Have you ever noticed how a restaurant you’ve gone to had empty tables, but you still had to wait? The purpose of this is to encourage you to sit at the bar, have a few drinks, and maybe even order an appetizer. It’s easy to spend an additional $15 or more while waiting for a table. Set a budget before you go into the restaurant and you’ll be less likely to fall for this trick. And remember, those drink calories add up just as quickly as food calories do so pay attention to what you’re drinking, especially the fruity stuff. Try to order drinks or use mixers that don’t have sugar like, tonic or flavored water, and even most red wines are low in sugar and carbs.
3. Specials. If you’ve ever visited the same restaurant on a regular basis, you might have noticed an item on “special” that costs more than the normal price. Specials are often used to promote high-profit items or to push food that’s about to expire. I said all of that to say, , a special isn’t truly a special so don’t order it simply because you feel like you can’t pass up a “good deal.” Nine times out of ten, it’s not one.
4. Watch out for salty snacks. Have you ever noticed how bars offer free pretzels, chips, popcorn, or peanuts? Those cheap, salty snacks will keep you drinking, which results in big profits for the restaurant. The return on a keg of beer is commonly over 300%, which is definitely worth the cost of some cheap, stale pretzels. Since we’re living in the post-lockdown age, I highly doubt we’ll have to worry about community bowls of pretzels, popcorns, and peanuts, which is a great thing, but who’s to say they won’t switch to simply offering them to each table/guests? If they do, opt-out!
5. Upselling. Your server is trained to upsell you every opportunity they get. Whether it’s an appetizer, salad, dessert, or extra cheese, you’ll be offered the chance to spend more money. Again, having a budget and sticking to it helps big time. And, unless you have a huge appetite, appetizers are usually unnecessary. I don’t know about you but I’m always getting a to-go box for my main entrée, barely leaving room for dessert. Try to pass on the upsells where possible, but if you have extra money to spend, why not give it to your server as a tip?
Restaurants are like any other business and now especially, they want to make as much money as possible. While dining out can be a nice, relaxing date night or girls’ night out, it’s important now more than ever to be financially responsible. Stick with your dining budget and avoid spending more than planned. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you! Or if you prefer, eat at home, no one can make your food with the love you would put into it anyway. If you are looking for something new, check out the Cleangoodeats “Out of the Box Instant Pot 101” class this Saturday. Click here for more info.