Take Advantage of Gift Cards
Our favourite restaurant to bring the kids to is Boston Pizza - they have a great kids menu and it's so loud in there we don't get the usual stares from childless couples. They have a $6.99 kids menu which includes a drink and dessert but once a year (I believe in October) they have 5 for $5 - meaning you can spend $5 to get a gift card worth 5 kids meals. Do the math, that's a good deal! So we can bring our 2 kids out for dinner for $2 instead of $14. The only catch is the card expires after a few months.
Also they usually have promotions usually around the holidays to increase gift card sales. For instance purchase a $50 gift card and get a $10 gift card for yourself for free. And who says you can't buy yourself a present if it's your favourite restaurant.
Eat out on a Weekday
Opt to go for dinner on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday instead of the weekend. Restaurants often have specials like half price pasta, two can dine for $35 (including aps and desserts),etc. throughout the week to increase sales and none on the already busy weekends. You can usually find the daily deals on their website and plan to go on the day that suites you best.
Our local Caseys sends out coupons in the mail for $10 off a $30 purchase or $15 off a $45 food purchase. A great save if you were already planning on dining there. They send these out every few months, restaurant coupons are cyclical just like grocery coupons - meaning they generally have a set pattern. We also receive Swiss Chalet and Boston Pizza coupons as well. I live in Canada so they restaurant coupons will vary from city to city.
Another great way to learn about deals and promotions is to sign up for newsletters from your favourite restaurant. They generally have more frequent deals.
Skip the Drinks
Having one or two alcoholic (or even mocktails) can double the price of your bill so instead opt for refillable soft drinks or even water if you are trying to keep the cost down.
Kids Eat Free
If you have young kids - kids eat free can save you a lot of money. The age usually varies from place to place so you may need to double check - some it's 3 others it's 6 and lots just have discounted prices.
I love the Sunday buffet at one of our city's local restarants, and they have kids under 3 eat free so my 3 year old and 18 month old (who actually eats as much as me) eats for free. That's a good deal.
Did you have any tips to save on Dining costs??? I would love to hear them.