Singapore restaurants offer fantastic dining experiences at a high cost. Here are some ways to spend less on your next meal out.
Singapore does have an affordable dining option. It’s called a hawker centre. But if you want a break from greasy food and dine somewhere air-conditioned, you’re going to want to eat at restaurants in Singapore.
Here’s a few ways to save your wallet when dining out:
1. Install Restaurant Discount Apps on Your Phone
The easiest way to score a deal is by downloading dining discount apps like Sugar, The Entertainer, and Eatigo. When you dine at their partner restaurants, you get a small discount or one-for-one deals. While you can’t find popular restaurants or Michelin-star establishments through these apps, it’s a great way to discover new tables in your neighbourhood – without paying full price.
We’ve done a roundup of the best food discount apps in Singapore to get you started.
2. Offer to Make the Reservation
If you’re dining with a group, offer to make the reservation. Then use a service like Chope or Quandoo.
These services award you with points every time you make and fulfill a reservation at their partner restaurants. You can trade these points for vouchers, which saves you at least S$10 off your next meal.
3. Use a Cashback Credit Card for Dining
There are dining credit cards, such as the OCBC 365 Card, that give you cashback as high as 6% on restaurant meals. The catch is that you have to spend a certain amount each month before you can claim the cashback. In this case, it’s S$600.
So if you eat out with friends several nights a week, put the combined bill on your dining credit card, and collect their share in cash. This way, you get to meet the minimum required spend and reap the cashback benefits.
Just make sure to pay the card back in full at the end of the month. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying an interest rate of around 25.92% p.a. on your unpaid balance and you won’t get the cashback.
4. Stalk Your Credit Card for Dining Deals
You don’t have to have a dining credit card to save money on restaurant meals. All major card providers have their own dining programme, which offers discounts and one-for-one deals at trendy bars, hotel buffets, and atas restaurants.
We’ve curated a list of Citibank buffet deals, UOB 1-for-1 buffet promotions, and OCBC dining promotions, plus dim sum deals, weekend brunch promotions, and credit card deals at Singapore’s Michelin-Starred restaurants.
5. Don’t Take “Special Menu” Promos
Sometimes, a credit card will offer “special menus” rather than a discount or bonus points. Try to avoid promotions like these – there’s a high chance that leftovers or unpopular items are being pushed to you this way.
Stick to cashback and discounts to optimise your credit card.
6. Dine on Appetisers
You’re supposed to order a main, but you don’t have to. These days, restaurant appetisers are bigger, and often tastier (it’s a culinary truth. Appetisers are meant to be heavier on flavour to raise your appetite).
You can also consider ordering a series of appetisers, if you are peckish but not starving. In mid-level cafes, this will normally fill you while saving a few dollars.
7. Split a Main
If you’re eating with a good friend, splitting a main can help you save money. Simply ask what the biggest main on the menu is, and split that.
These days some restaurants even have platters that are meant to be shared. These two, four, or sometimes even six-person platters tend to cost much less than having everyone order individually.
8. Buy Wine By the Bottle or Not At All
Buying a bottle can shave almost 10 to 15% off the price. Decide if you’re going to sit there and drink, or not. If your intent is to just have one or two glasses of wine, skip it and order another beverage.
The markup on a per-glass basis is huge, and some restaurants cheat. If you don’t see the bottle, they may be pouring you another, cheaper wine.
9. Skip Drinks Altogether
If you’re not much of a wine drinker, consider skipping drinks altogether and having water with your meal. Drinks are a huge source of profit, with tea, soda, and juice often marked up by 70% or 80%.
So say no to the drinks menu and ask for water instead. Remember to ask for ice water or tap water specifically, as some restaurants charge as much as S$4 for a plastic bottle of mineral water.
And if the server asks if you prefer sparkling or still water, never say “still”. You’ll end up ordering some fancy bottled water that costs S$7 but tastes just like tap.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.