By Lee Pitts
Inflation is running rampant and nowhere is this more evident than at restaurants, so diners have to get creative to stretch their food dollars. Up until now, I’ve relied on three ways to reduce the total tab and not break the bank: Eat fast food more often, order off the a la carte menu or split a meal with your spouse.
Believe me, I’ve experimented with all three with varying results, but have found the best way to cheapen a bill is ordering the combo meal consisting of one item off the a la carte menu at a fast food joint and then split it with your spouse.
My wife and I never eat supper or breakfast out, but I do like to treat her to lunch a couple times a week. Currently, one of our favorite restaurants is a place called Sea Pines. We’ve eaten at Sea Pines for over 40 years, and it’s gone through its ups and downs depending on the management, but currently its fare is fabulous and the staff is super friendly.
We also like it because we’re only a couple miles away, and this brings up yet another way to reduce the tariff while dining out: Pick a place close to home to cut back on gas – the fossil fuel kind anyway.
If you think being a customer at a restaurant is costly, put yourself in the restaurateur’s shoes. Their costs are spiraling out of control, customers are still a bit reluctant to dine out due to COVID-19, many places can’t find the help they need and some chains have gone belly up because they simply cannot find the workers they need in sufficient numbers.
The restaurant business really has gone to the dogs. One idea Sea Pines has come up with to generate more income is to feature a dog’s menu. For example, the breakfast menu offers The Canine Combo including one scrambled egg, one piece of bacon and one doggie biscuit, all for only seven bucks. Or, you can buy three scrambled eggs cooked to your dog’s liking for six dollars, and last but not least, four pieces of extra crispy bacon for five dollars.
The lunch and dinner items for the pooches at Sea Pines include sliced chicken breast for five dollars, one-third of a pound of ground beef patty for six dollars or an eight-ounce ribeye cooked to your pup’s preferred degree of doneness for only $10. What dog is going to eat chicken when they can eat beef?
I asked our favorite server Brie, “Does anybody really order these things for their dog?”
I watched as a tear began forming in the corner of her eye and with halting speech she uttered, “Oh, yes. On the day we had to put our old dog down, we brought her here first and ordered the ribeye steak for her.”
“I bet she went to heaven with a big old smile on her doggie face,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
On our next visit to Sea Pines, Brie wasn’t there, and I ordered the doggie ribeye.
“And could I get a knife and fork with that, you know, to cut up the steak into more dog-sized chunks?” I asked.
“That’s thoughtful of you,” our server said. “And would your dog like something to drink?”
“That depends. How much are you getting for your dog iced tea or a doggie Diet Coke?” I asked.
“They’re $3.50, the same as the people version,” the server replied.
“Oh, I think our dog will pass then,” I said. “Could you just bring us all some water?”
I ruminated about what a great concept the dog menu was at Sea Pines. Basically, they turned one restaurant into two. One for people, and an all-new coffee shop for dogs. If they can be so creative in coming up with ways to fight inflation, I figured so can I.
So, the last time we dined out at Sea Pines, I ordered the ribeye steak along with The Canine Combo, with two extra plates. So, we ended up with the ribeye, a scrambled egg and a piece of bacon all for $17, or $8.50 for two.
As we were leaving, the server yelled out to us across the crowded restaurant, “Don’t forget your doggie biscuit for your imaginary dog.”