Experts compare popular family restaurants for the best value.
After a long day at work, cooking dinner can sometimes be the last thing you want to do. However, you can still save when dining out -- you just need to know where to nab the best deal on your meal.
Cheapism compared the five most popular chain restaurants and rated them based on value and quality. The site used various criteria, including portion sizes and kids menus, and while there was only a $5 (or 11 percent) difference between the most expensive and least expensive restaurant, that money can add up when you take into account the savings over a full year.
According to the USDA's Economic Research Service, the average person spent $1,402.67 on dining out in 2010, reports Cheapism. So, which restaurants offered the best deals for a family of four? Outback came in at fourth place with a bill of $41.44, while T.G.I. Friday's and Ruby Tuesday tied at $40. A family meal at Applebee's cost $36.74, the cheapest of the top five restaurants, however, Chili's ranked higher in value and customer reviews, so it was deemed the best value despite costing $37.85.
If you're looking for freebies, many establishments have birthday or anniversary clubs, which offer discounts and free meals to its members. They are often free to join so it's a no-brainer, if you're looking for complimentary food on your big day. Keep these tips in mind the next time you want to take the family out and you'll only be dishing out dollars for great deals.