“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times
In this review:
  1. Family Restaurants
  2. Cheap Restaurant Food
  3. Restaurant Nutrition
  4. Restaurant Lunch Menus, Kids Menus, Takeout
  1. Restaurant Dinner Specials, Happy Hours
  2. Red Lobster, Olive Garden Prices
  3. Best Family Dining Restaurants

Restaurant Dinner Specials

Of the five restaurants we researched, three were offering dinner specials: Chili's, Applebee's, and TGI Friday's. We found the most deals at TGI Friday's.

Customers could choose three courses -- a starter, an entree, and a dessert -- from a designated list for $16.99 or three from a different list for $12.99. A third deal offered two courses for $10.99. Chili's and Applebee's were running similar dinner specials. Chili's was advertising two margaritas, one appetizer, two entrees, and one dessert for $35 -- not bad for a date night. The Applebee's dinner special consisted of two entrees and one appetizer for $20. Chili's also had a check-in special running on Foursquare. If you checked in at Chili's on your smartphone, you received a free order of chips and salsa simply by telling your server. Some deals are offered for a limited time, so you may see different dinner specials depending on when and where you dine out.


TGI Friday's rewards program

TGI Friday's stands out as the only restaurant on our list that offers a rewards program. It's called Give Me More Stripes and awards customers one stripe for every $1 they spend on food. Fifty stripes earns a free dessert, 80 stripes merits a free sandwich or hamburger, 100 stripes earns $8 off a food purchase, and 150 stripes buys a steak or rib dinner. Our total for a family of four was $40.04 -- just 10 stripes shy of a free dessert. Signing up for the program gets you an e-mail coupon for a free appetizer or dessert, one Jump the Line pass to use if there is a wait, and a free dessert on your birthday.

Restaurant Happy Hours and Drink Specials.

Most of this report focuses on family dining, but during our research we also came across several restaurant happy hours and appealing drink specials. Outback was featuring margaritas for $3.95 or a pitcher for $11, and American draft beers were $2 every day. At Outback there's no happy hour, so it doesn't matter what time you go. Keep an eye out for the drink of the day; on Frozen Fridays, for example, all frozen drinks are $4 instead of $5 to $6.


Dinner specials at Applebee's

If you're looking for a good restaurant happy hour, adult beverages are half off at Applebee's from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Normal drink prices ranged from $6 to $8 at the location we visited. Drinks at TGI Friday's normally cost $5 to $8, but during the restaurant's happy hour, a drink of the day is about $4. TGI Friday's had the steepest alcohol prices we saw. A customer who reviewed the restaurant on Yelp complains about the value, saying drinks are overpriced given the amount of alcohol they contain.

Ruby Tuesday doesn't do happy hour; premium cocktails are $5 all day. The Chili's restaurant happy hour includes well drinks for $3, margaritas for $3.99 (the regular price is $5), and small domestic drafts for $2.25 Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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