Restaurants When Traveling

GAUGING QUALITY

If you have concerns on the cleanliness of the kitchen, make a b-line to the bathroom, for if they don’t take care of the restrooms, odds are their kitchen isn’t immaculate. You can also observe the bubbles in your draft beer to gauge cleanliness. If the bubbles cling to the sides of your pint glass, then the cup is dirty and, probabilistically, so is the kitchen.

Just like flight attendants and hotel desk managers, restaurant hosts and hostesses are usually susceptible to bribery. So you forgot to reserve a table? Better bust out the chocolate. If you do find the time to make a reservation, though, inquire about parking, handicap accessibility, operation hours, and other specific questions, as these are often asked by highbrow restaurant reviewers for whom restaurants go out of their way to please.

WINE MENU

Once you’re satisfied with the restaurants hygiene and have taken your seat, you will likely turn to the wine section for a nice bottle of vino. If you are on a budget but don’t want to appear like a tight-ass, avoid the urge to buy the second cheapest bottle. Restaurants know people’s behavioral proclivities for ordering the second cheapest bottle on the menu and often slot a poor-value, overpriced blends at this price point. This is a rare instance when the cheaper option is in fact the better value.

Another tip notorious among restaurant employees is to never order the daily specials. While some restaurants may indeed have fantastic specials, many are simply discounted dishes that contain old ingredients.

TREAT YOUR SERVER RIGHT

Obviously, being nice to your server and treating them like a human being is a good way to engender superior service, but there are other simple things you can do to help your server help you. Asking for everything at once helps the server avoid unnecessary trips to and from the kitchen, so order efficiently. If you are not in the states, be cognizant of the tipping standards. Many countries don’t tip or automatically add the gratuity to the bill. In some countries it is even considered rude to tip, perceived as a gesture of pity or an act of social superiority.

JACKET TRICK

If you are a fraudster or in a serious pinch, you can always do the old jacket trick (that is, if you have a jacket you are willing to part with). This is easily done by going to a restaurant, finishing your meal, and calmly walking out without paying. Suspicions aren’t aroused because you leave your jacket on the back of your seat, fooling the workers into believing that you haven’t left or that you’re coming back. You can even make a few bucks with this trick by bringing someone else along who pays you (less than the cost of the meal of course) to take the brunt of the risk. Your partner finishes the meal and leaves a few minutes ahead of you, where you then do the jacket trick as if you had eaten alone. Although I don’t typically condone theft, if you are in a tight spot it sure beats starving to death.

Saving At Restaurants

For those of you who enjoy the occasional splurge, eating out can be a nice treat. Before going out for dinner though, make sure to consult Gift Card Granny. It is a unique site that sells discounted restaurant gift cards. Simply type in the details and click search; you will then be presented with numerous discount cards to local restaurants. It is not uncommon to see gift cards selling for half or even one-third of their face value. If you’re going to temporarily deviate from your miserliness lifestyle, you may as well indulge on the cheap. When it comes to feeding your kids, try either kidsmealdeals.com or mykidseatfree.com. These are websites that show the dates and times when local restaurants allow kids to eat for free.

As a marketing tactic, many restaurants and bars offer free food and drinks to people who engage with them on social media. Share it, like it, post it, pin it, tweet it, and subscribe to the RSS feed, because the best meals are the free ones. Additionally, (especially for birthday bonuses) restaurants give free food for signing up, registering, or joining free programs. You’ll probably receive promotional texts, mail, or email, which can be annoying at times, but signing up is beneficial for the most part.

At some restaurants, you can get nearly identical items by ordering in a slightly unorthodox manner. For example, instead of ordering a Big Mac at McDonalds, you can order a McDouble with lettuce and Big Mac sauce on it. Similarly, at Subway you can get a cheaper version of the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich by ordering double steak and cheese on a regular sandwich. At Jack in the Box, it is cheaper to get two mini bacon burgers instead of one double bacon burger; and it is cheaper to get multiple four-piece nuggets from McDonalds than a twelve- or twenty-four piece (and you get more sauces as well). Through careful analysis, similar ordering variations can be found at virtually every restaurant. Simple add-ons, omissions, or substitutions can change the price drastically.

Making small changes can also insure that your meal is fresher and better tasting. Ask for french fries with no salt to get a fresh batch, then add the salt yourself. Ask for the pickles on the side when ordering a cheeseburger to avoid a soggy bun. You can even ask to substitute ingredients (such as hot fudge in a mocha instead of syrup at McDonalds or more/less of a particular fruit or vegetable at Jamba Juice). If you ask for no ice you will get more soda in the cup; and if you ask for a small drink in a large cup, you will likely get more soda then you would have otherwise received. Become a regular customer and request the same waiter/waitress to build a rapport. If you play your cards right, they will give you substantial discounts or straight-up freebies.

If you’re a real scoundrel, buy a meal, eat half of it, then rip out a big chunk of hair from your head and place it in your food. Politely complain to the manager and you will get another full meal free-of-charge. You can also use such devious tactics when going through drive throughs. If you want to rip off the restaurant, go through and say they forgot something in your order. Even if you didn’t make an order, they’ll likely just give you what you requested, without verifying with a receipt. If you want to rip off fellow patrons, go through the drive through and say you just realized you forgot your wallet. You keep driving through the line as if you made an order, and when you stop at the last window, they will hand you the food meant for the car behind you.

Hankering your favorite dish from your favorite restaurant but don’t feel like going out? Copycat recipes allow you to create knockoff meals from the comfort of your own kitchen. Whether you want the Tuscan garlic chicken from Olive Garden or the Shamrock McFlurry from McDonalds, copycat recipes enable you to create counterfeit dishes at thrift store prices.