Dubai: I consider myself the queen of saving money on eating out. If you check my Instagram stories, you will notice that I go out to eat at least three times a week.
Well, normally, eating out in Dubai can seriously add up. But saving money while also having a great meal is more than possible. All you have to do is invest a little time to figure out what the best deals are around town.
Here are some clever ways to save even when eating out:
Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
Eating lunch out instead of dinner can save you a lot of money. Lunch is usually shorter in timespan and involves a more affordable menu. Sometimes lunch deals are even cheaper, especially since they bundle up and include a free appetiser and beverage. The reason I love going out to a "Business lunch" even though I don't have any "business" to discuss, is that Dubai and Abu Dhabi business lunches are a great way to enjoy 5 star, fine dining restaurants for less money. Most business lunches in the fanciest areas in Dubai include two or three courses and cost a fraction of what you would normally pay for the same amount of courses.
Bring your own water
The cost of water in certain restaurants can be truly absurd here in the UAE. Some places charge you quadruple the amount it costs them to buy local water. Bring your own water from home, so you don't have to order expensive restaurant water. I've done it so many times and no one dares to say anything. It could save you up to Dh20 to Dh25 depending on where you dine. It may seem like nothing on the day, but over time, this adds up.
Get rewarded for becoming a repeat customer
An app I recently started using when going out to eat is Repeat. It is a free app that essentially rewards you for being a repeat customer. What this means, is that the app will give you discounts based your frequency at a particular spot. Once you download the app, you can look through restaurants you love the most and the more you go, the more you are rewarded for coming back sooner. Many restaurants on the app have a Welcome Offer ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent. My favourite spots to go to via repeat is Clinton Street Baking Company, Tania's Teahouse and Din Tai Fung.
Eat the main course at home, and go out for dessert
A trick I do all the time is enjoying a delicious, affordable and filling home-cooked meal, then I go out for dessert with my friends. This means we all get to catch up and try a new place, and still save plenty of money.
Split a large main with a friend
Most restaurants in the UAE offer generous servings. It's an Arab country after all, and we are not about to leave a place hungrier than we came. Most restaurants give you a good amount of food in your plate. It's usually more than you actually can (and should) consume. So if you aren't very hungry, share your main with a friend. You can also try sharing the main course as an appetiser, then ordering appetisers as your main course. Divide the portions and split the bill after. It comes out cheaper.
Take advantage of Ladies and Gent's nights
Ladies night is a ritual and an institution for expat women all over the city. Many venues across Dubai offer free beverages and amazing discounts on food on certain weekdays, which both women and men can take advantage of. Whether it's a ladies night under Dh50 or a full-on three-course meal plus free beverages for Dh150, there are price ranges to suit all budgets.
Ladies night dining deals:
Use rewards cards
Different restaurants in the UAE, who don't want to be on apps, which could be too costly for them, offer diners a chance to claim rewards points after signing up to their loyalty programs instead. Members can sometimes enjoy free desserts, beverages or even a full main meal during special occasions. If you hang out at your favourite spot often, ask if you can join their rewards program and make sure to give them your exact birth date, as some places offer free birthday treats if you dine in on your special day.
Free birthday treats
Speaking of Birthday Treats...Many restaurants offer birthday freebies. You could get your own meal for free if you dine in with a certain number of guests or receive a birthday cake if you tell them it’s your birthday. Just make sure you have a valid identification with you as some establishments double check the information before you can get the perk. Find out where you can enjoy a freebie on your birthday.
Where to get a free birthday meal in Dubai
Kids can eat free
Families often love to go out on weekends and sometimes feeding a family of four can get expensive. It’s worth looking out for local places that offer free dining for kids. There are weekly brunches with kids-eat-free deals, while others offer daily kids’ meals. It's a great way to save money if you only have to spend on the adults on the table.
Some restaurants and fast food chains offer cheaper meals at specific times of the day. Sometimes, the usual (and more affordable) breakfast is available to order until lunch. There are food places that offer half-the-price deals for a specific part of their menu during lunch or dinner hour. Some fine dining spots offer early bird specials. So if you show up for dinner from 6pm to 8pm instead of past 8pm, which is more common, you can benefit from a better deal.
Take home leftovers
Taking home leftovers does not really save you money as such, because you’re still paying a full price for a meal. But last night’s dinner can always double up as lunch today. It is so much better than letting that extra food go to waste.
Buy-one, get-one offers
Take advantage of buy-one-get one free offers. You could invest in coupon apps like The Entertainer, Zomato Gold or try Groupon. Either you take a friend with you to split the bill, or you can grab both meals and save the other half for later. If you’re feeling generous, this is the best way to treat more of your friends and family without hurting your pocket.
Flyers and insert packages in newspapers or magazines
It sounds a bit old school but you should honestly start taking advantage of coupons. You can turn to newspaper and magazine inserts to save money. Many leading newspapers and magazines here in the UAE use coupon advertising. Most of your favourite outlets partner with publishers to offer discounts on new items on their menu to be featured seasonally for lower than average rates. So pick up the paper whenever you can and read through to find these coupons.