We’ve just adjusted to eating out in the pandemic era for two years. Now diners — and restaurants — are struggling with affordability.
We’ve spent much of the past two years adjusting how we’ve experienced restaurants due to a pandemic. Now we are faced with another limitation that affects our dining out: affordability.
Inflation has made many a budget feel like a new pinch, and for many the first belt to tighten is the one going out of finances, including eating out.
However, there are still some great ways to eat out and not have it cost that much. Here are a few tips.
Try a service like First Table that cuts your costs if you dine early
You know the saying “the early bird catches the worm?” Well, that’s pretty much the guiding principle of First Table. The restaurant reservation service, launched in 2019, will save 50 percent off your food bill when you book the “first table” available, as if you were going when they open — usually at 5 or 5:30 p.m. The deal applies to tables of two to four diners and must be pre-booked through their platform. Participating restaurants in Vancouver include Water St Cafe, Nuba (on 3rd), and Cibo Trattoria.
Make it a lunch date
If you feel like eating out but shudder at the prices on the dinner menu, see if you can have lunch instead. Why? Well, oftentimes you’ll get the same or similar dishes for a lower price, and you may be less inclined to stick with dessert or a second drink. Some restaurants in Vancouver also offer great lunch deals, and I don’t just mean sushi combos or sandwich-chip drinks. My favorite upscale lunch deal is Hawksworth, where you can get three courses for $27. French bistros are also a good choice for these types of meal experiences; Jules, for example, provides a set lunch menu “table d’hote” for $33.
Score sweet takeout deals and minimize waste
Download the Too Good To Go app and you’ll be just a few taps away from getting discounted restaurants, bakeries and cafes and keeping trash out of the green bin. Several Vancouver companies have signed up and are putting items, from pizzas and sandwiches to bags of pastries, for sale at a deeply discounted price on a first-come, first-served basis—that is, through the app. Some put together “surprise bags” of whatever is on hand, but you’ll find fantastic local restaurants, such as Maxine’s Cafe & Bar, Larry’s Market, Flourist, Chickpea, Bel Café and Marche Mon Pitou – just to name a few.
Another vote to go early (or late): Happy hour
The most obvious hack to save money on going out is Happy Hour. And you might immediately think, “But I’m at work at 3 p.m. on weekdays!” But the great thing is that several branches in Vancouver also run HH on weekends, meaning if you can get a very late lunch or very early dinner to work, you’ll get access to decent discounts on drinks and appetizers. Places like H Tasting Lounge, Nightingale and Homer St. Cafe offer daily HH action.
Now, if you can’t be at a restaurant in the afternoon, period, you might want to look for what’s often called “reverse” happy hour. No, that’s not when things are more expensive and make you unhappy — it’s just a funny way of saying “late night” happy hour. That might also be what it’s called in some places. To be fair, Reverse Happy Hours are usually past my bedtime, but I know you’ll find them at most major chain stores, as well as some busier indie spots in Vancouver. Your fate isn’t sealed with somewhere that rhymes with “Schmearls” – for example, Gastown’s most excellent drinks and burgers, Pourhouse has HH from 3-6pm and again from 10pm to “late” (as I said, after my bedtime) .