Check online for deals when dining out, Consumer Reports says


"One of the first things you can do is to visit a restaurant's website to find out about any special offers," said Tod Marks of Consumer Reports.

Take Chili's, for example. It has a $20 steak dinner special for two. And Bob Evans has an "Endless Farmhouse Lunch" for $6.99.

"You can also sign up for email alerts and join an e-club to learn about even more deals," said Marks.

By joining California Pizza Kitchen's eclub, you get $5 toward your next visit. And on Facebook, liking Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants can also lead to dining deals.

Consumer Reports found you do need to choose where you eat carefully. Its survey of almost 48,000 subscribers gave some popular chains low marks for value - among them were Hard Rock Cafe, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Joe's Crab Shack and Hooters.

"Another surefire way to save is to eat out when others don't. There's a lot more out there than just an early-bird special," Marks said.

At Applebee's, late-night diners enjoy half-price appetizers. And at Red Lobster, you get a discount on some shrimp entrées on Mondays and Tuesdays.

"Here's another sweet way to save: If it's your birthday, eat at a restaurant that offers free dessert," said Marks.

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