Dining

5 Ways To Spend Less When Dining at Singapore Restaurants

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Joanne Poh

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The restaurant advertises $20 pasta, but your bill adds up to $50 per person. At home, you scrutinise the receipt and discover that your side dishes cost $25 and you were charged $5 for wet tissues.

Just as you continue to keep a close watch on your car while you eat at roadside stalls in Johor Bahru, you mustn’t let your guard down when you dine in Singapore restaurants. Here are some tips that can help to reduce trauma when the bill arrives.

 

1. Skip The Side Dishes And Appetisers

When your friend chirpily asks if you want to share an appetiser or side dish, it’s hard to say no. But people tend to fall into the trap of wanting to try everything on the menu, and the amounts spent on extras really add up.

Next time someone suggests sharing multiple appetisers or side dishes, pretend to be deep in thought. Then say that you’ve actually ordered quite a lot already and are not sure if you can finish the food. Follow up with an offer to order more dishes if you’re still hungry at the end of the meal. 90% of the time, they forget.

 

2. Replace Your Main Course With An Appetiser

The one time you should seriously browse the appetiser section is when you’re thinking of skipping the main course altogether in favour of an appetiser. If the restaurant you’re at serves generous starters like pasta or big salads, order one in place of a meat-based main course.

 

3. Beware When The Waiter Upsells

When the waiter seems a little too eager to upsell the dish of the day or some special new wine they have on promotion, alarm bells should be going off in your head.

Never, ever order something that’s not on the menu without first inquiring about the price, especially if you’re in one of those seafood restaurants that charge the “market rate”.

 

 4. BYOB Or Share A Bottle

Ordering a glass of wine to go with your meal is often one of the worst decisions you can make when it comes to cost. If your companions are drinking as well, sharing a bottle of wine is much cheaper than ordering separate glasses, even if you didn’t originally intend to drink more than one glass.

If the restaurant lets you bring your own bottle in exchange for a corkage fee, you’re in luck as this is the cheapest option.

 

5. Return Any Extras You Didn’t Ask For

Always be wary if you see extras you didn’t ask for, especially at Chinese restaurants. Those wet tissues and little plates of nuts usually aren’t free, and neither is the Chinese tea. Send back any extras the moment they’re placed in front of you. Most Chinese restaurants charge you for Chinese tea but also offer free refills. If there are two of you, send back one cup of tea and share the remaining one.

 

Final Note: Sure, we’d all like to have a nice extravagant meal once in a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save money too! If you haven’t already seen our list of the 3 best dining cards in Singapore, you’ll be surprised as to how many high end restaurants you can save at with the right card.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for saving money when dining out? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Min

    Ok, your suggestions aren’t wrong, but this article is almost too cheap to be true.

    As someone who has worked in F&B, this is something about our culture that I don’t understand–we may have very mature and discerning palettes: we know what’s kobe beef and garlic aioli, but we are not willing to pay for what we get. We want the best, but we want the cheapest.

    When you go to a restaurant, you shouldn’t expect to pay for just an appetizer and occupy the space for the entire evening.

    I will say this: spend fairly. You can skip the frivolities and what’s not necessary, but please, order a main!