IMHO, dining out is one of the greatest joys in life. As someone who likes to eat out but also likes to be savvy with spending, I've found these can contradict each other.
Luckily, there are ways to eat out without spending ridiculously. Score yourself discounts on courses, free starters and free drinks.
Keep on reading to discover how to eat out on a budget...
Make use of free restaurant vouchers and offers
Rule Number 1:
Never go out for a meal without checking to see if the restaurant has a discount voucher online.
Popular restaurants like Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny's, Strada, Prezzo, Giraffe, ASK Italian, Zizzi, Bill's and GBK almost always have discount offers available.
Whether it's 2 for 1 on courses, money off the food bill or a free drink, it's always worth checking out what's available.
At the moment, you can score all these great deals (and more):
- Kids Eat for £1 at Giraffe - with the purchase of an adult main, little ones can enjoy a starter, main, dessert and drink for just £1, every weekend.
- Starter & Main for £10.95 at Pizza Express - enjoy a two-course feast for under £11 at Pizza Express restaurants. Upgrade to three-courses for just £14.95!
- Unlimited Breakfast for £9.50 at Beefeater - clear away the damage of the night before with an unlimited breakfast at Beefeater for just £9.50.
We update our Restaurant Vouchers page every day with all the latest offers available, so it's your one-stop shop for all the best savings and deals.
Make sure to check it out before you head out!
Don't get caught out!
Ever had that awkward moment where you've presented a restaurant voucher to your waiter and they have no idea what you're talking about?
Don't get caught out with these top tips on using your restaurant vouchers:
- Discount offers are often time sensitive, so make sure you check the T&Cs to make sure the offer is available at the time you wish to visit
- Check to see when the restaurant requires you to present the voucher. Some are fine just showing it at payment, but others can be pretty strict on you showing at arrival/when you book the table
- Make sure the voucher is applicable to your whole table (or be prepared that it may not be). Kids eat free offers are normally only applicable to one adult main being purchased - i.e. if you have two children you'll need two adult mains to be bought for both children to eat for a £1.
Sign up for restaurant newsletters, emails & apps
All major high street restaurants will have their own mailing list where they share all the latest deals and offers first.
Sign up for your favourites (and your less favourites!) and be one of the first to hear when new discounts, menus and special offers are on.
With the rising trend of apps, restaurants are also jumping on the bandwagon. Many have their own, lots with a special sign-up treat waiting to be used by you.
- Score £10 off your bill at Frankie & Benny's
- Get a free starter at Turtle Bay
- Enjoy a free glass of prosecco at All Bar One
- Tuck into a free pizza or carvery at Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery
- Get a free glass of wine/bottle of beer at Toby Carvery
All just by downloading their apps!
Think about the day of the week
Lots of restaurants offer great deals on weekdays to entice customers on their quieter days.
Fancy a midweek treat?
Check out the details for all of these & more on our Restaurant Vouchers page.
Make use of restaurant loyalty programmes
We all know about coffee shop loyalty cards (get a free coffee after ten stamps), but did you know some restaurants offer loyalty cards as well?
While discounted offers are a great way to bring in custom, by offering loyalty schemes restaurants make sure that you come back time and time again, as you'll be earning points/freebies every time that you eat.
If you regularly dine at Nandos, you probably already know about the Loyalty Reward Card.
Pick up a card instore, register it online or via the app and start collecting points. For every £7 you spend you'll earn a Chilli - the more Chillis you earn the bigger your reward. Once you get to ten Chillies you'll earn a whole chicken or a single combo meal with regular sides...
Subway lovers, make sure you're the proud owner of a Sub Card. Collect points with every purchase you make and earn free subs. Plus, you get a free Subway cookie on your birthday - yum!
Jamie's Italian Gold Club gives you exclusive monthly rewards, free tasters for your entire part and priority booking. Jamie's Italian has never, and will never, run discounted offers so this Gold Club is the perfect way for you to save some dollar when you visit this Italian chain.
Be flexible with your timings
If you can afford to be flexible with when you dine, you will find yourself saving some pennies.
Lots of restaurants offer early-bird set menus, allowing you to enjoy several courses for a fixed price. Plus, if the restaurant is close to a theatre they will tend to offer pre-theatre menus - that aren't limited to just theatre-goers!
If you can arrange to have your meal out at lunchtime, that will help you save money.
By dining at lunch you might (!) be less inclined to drink alcohol and restaurants tend to offer fixed lunch menus that work out cheaper than dinner ones.
Be savvy to seasonal offers
This one works two ways.
Restaurants use seasonal holidays and events to their advantage and will run set menus/offers to persuade you to celebrate with them. If you were planning on dining out anyway, then make sure you make the most of these!
Whether it's Mother/Father's Day, Valentines Day or the school holidays, restaurants will normally have a few offers going.
On the other hand...
...these are peak times of the year for the restaurant business and places are expected to be busy.
At other, less popular, times of the year, places will not expect to be as busy and will offer cheaper offers to try and persuade you to chose to treat yourself and dine there.
So before you dine out, consider the time of year and what offers might be going on.
Psst, if it's a school holiday, you might just find your fave restaurant swarming with children!
Which leads to my next point...
Parents, use restaurants to entertain your kids during holidays
Family-friendly restaurants will almost certainly be offering child-related offers during half-terms and school holidays.
Restaurants know that parents will be looking for ways to entertain their little ones that won't break the bank. Discounted meals out are perfect, as they're fun for the adults too.
Use the kids to your advantage and enjoy a family meal out for less than you might think.
Ditch the alcohol (or BYOB)
Alcohol makes up a huge chunk of your total bill and more often than not, vouchers only cover food not drinks. By ditching the booze you'll save yourself some pretty pennies!
Alternatively, look out for vouchers that offer you a free drink with a main course (these offers give you a bigger saving overall than a discount) or check to see if the restaurant is BYOB. Be wary of corkage prices and bring drinks accorgingly - it could work out cheaper to bring a bottle of wine rather than several bottles of beer.
Eat out on the cheap & become a mystery diner
If your love of dining out goes beyond spending time with loved ones, then mystery dining is the perfect role for you. Visit and review restaurants and hotels and be reimbursed for your time (and food!).
External marketing companies, watchdogs and internal companies organise mystery guests to check and evaluate the level of customer service, quality of food and overall dining experience. You pose as a real customer and keep note of your experience, giving a full and honest review at the end.
Interested? Check out our comprehensive guide on how to be a mystery shopper for all the tips and tricks of the trade.
How to get free food and reduce your food bill
If all these money-saving tips have left you wanting more, make sure you check out our guide on reducing your food bill at home.
Cashback apps, giveaways, coupons and more can save you pretty pennies while doing your weekly shop!
Discover free food (17 practical ways to eat for free) today.
Follow these tips and you'll find yourself eating out but at the slice of the price. Have I missed out any of your favourite ways to save money at restaurants?!