Restaurants of every price range -- including the French restaurant Brasserie in New York, where a hamburger costs $18 -- are seeing more customers split dishes as a way to save some money while still indulging with a dinner out, according to an Associated Press story.

Three people recently shared an ice tea at Brasserie, said David Pogrebin, general manager at the restaurant, which didn't stop them from sharing.

"Now all bets are off," Pogrebin told AP. "People are not ashamed of being frugal."

While waiters may look down on diners splitting an entree, many consumers don't consider frugality a crime in these times of high unemployment and shrinking paychecks.

"I do worry sometimes about people thinking we are being cheap, but I tend to feel that I am still spending money there over eating at home, and I try not to worry about it," Marcy Robison of Columbus, Ohio, told the AP. "In the end, we are trying to be wise stewards of our finances and if someone finds fault with that, so be it."

Robison says her family frequently splits an entree or order two entrees and split them with their 3-year-old daughter. Sharing saves them $5 to $12 each time out, she said.

Some of the savings, however, can be negated by the fee that some restaurants charge for splitting meals, which can run as high as $5 for an entree. If the splitting price isn't posted on the menu, ask your server. Better to be frugal and not surprised when the check arrives.

So far in my family's dining outings, we haven't split meals, although it sounds like a good idea, especially when ordering a salad or appetizer. About as far as I've gone with this is ordering water to drink and taking frequent sips of my 4-year-old daughter's lemonade. Her smile always gets her free refills.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net


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