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Ways to dine out on the cheap

During a sluggish economy, people are looking for ways to save money. Restaurants are trying to help, too, by offering deals with buy one/get one free or 50 percent off.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — During a sluggish economy, people are looking for ways to save money.  Restaurants are trying to help, too, by offering deals for buy one/get one free or for 50 percent or more off.

Bonita McClure could be called the "queen of finding deals" ton eat, drink and save money.

"I don't know the last time I paid full price,” she said.

McClure says she is a pretty good cook, but she doesn't want to spend all her time in the kitchen.

"Seeing that I do a lot of cooking at home, sometimes I would like to eat out,” she said.

McClure's favorite Web site is Restaurant.com. You can buy gift certificates for restaurants nationwide at close to half off or sometimes more. A gift certificate for $25 will cost $13.

The Web site is currently offering a special until Saturday, 80 percent off a $25 gift certificate. So you only pay $2.

A Triangle-based Web site that offers the same kinds of deals is ZSpotlight Entertainment Guide. It has gift certificates for restaurants such as Amante, Amedeo's and Hi 5.

"I have friends, and we have a circle who try to save and so we send each other coupons and I forward them to other friends,” McClure said.

McClure found a buy-one-entree, get-one-free coupon from TGI Friday's and another one from Ruby Tuesday. To take part, join the loyalty club online or at the restaurant. 

You don't have to do a lot of Web surfing to find deals, either, McClure said.

The Mint Restaurant, 1 Exchange Plaza in Raleigh, offers a three-course dinner for $30. Starting now, you can get that same deal for $23 from 5 to 6 p.m. The restaurant's new affordable nighttime menu offers filet mignon and scallops at lower prices.

While the average check price has gone down, the restaurant says it hasn't taken much of a financial hit.

"The hit is not bad. We work with our vendors and have been able to get prices at a level where we can convey the prices to our guests," Cara Zalcberg, with The Mint Restaurant, said.

Restaurant guests these days are looking for deals.

"There's no sense in paying full price for things if you don't have to," McClure said.


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