How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

How to Give Your Restaurant Guests a Great Dining Experience

As a starting point, let’s agree we are not in the restaurant business. Nope, we are in the hospitality business.

If the restaurant business was about competing only on the food we prepared and sold, we would be competing with a gas station. And a breakfast place would be competing with a steakhouse.

The thing that allows you to differentiate yourself is to offer the dining experience your diners expect.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Food is a major part of what we do and one Italian restaurant is directly competing with another Italian restaurant, etc. But we need to first understand what our jobs are and how we can use service to separate ourselves from the masses.

Our job is to execute on the promise of Restaurant 101 first and foremost. Delivering on this promise means giving our guests a clean, safe environment to dine, great food and “WOW” customer service. Assuming your place is clean, safe and you put out great food, your focus needs to turn to providing a WOW customer service experience. Service is what separates you from the mass of independent and chain restaurants all around you.

What does it mean to deliver great service? Is that different from delivering on the promise of great hospitality? Some say the difference is in semantics, but we believe there is a difference in the meaning of hospitality and service here at Restaurant Systems Pro.

Great service is the execution of the steps of service on a shift-by-shift basis. It’s introducing yourself at the table when you take an order. It’s checking back in three minutes after the food has been delivered to a table to see if everything is good. It’s making sure drinks are refilled in a timely basis.

Provide great hospitality

Great hospitality is an extension of great service, taking it to another level.

Here at Restaurant Systems Pro, hospitality is a great dining experience that goes far beyond great food and great service. A truly great dining experience is when our guest’s needs are anticipated and met for them, resulting in 100 percent satisfaction. It’s to always strive to make every moment memorable.

The key word is memorable.

Great hospitality is about making each guest’s dining experience memorable. The part that isn’t so apparent in that statement is that YOU don’t make a dining experience memorable; the people a guest is dining with do. For something to really stick, it has to be anchored to a feeling. For example, when I would hire new employees in my restaurants, I wanted to make sure they had the same love of food and the restaurant business he did. As a young chef I was sure that by creating incredible food I would do exactly that. I just needed to find people who wanted to deliver on service to match my commitment to food.

When I interviewed people I would ask them to tell me about their favorite food memories. I expected I would hear about incredible service and an equally incredible restaurant. But that’s not what I got. Instead I got answers like, “a hot dog with my grandpa at my first baseball game,” “grandma’s apple pie at Thanksgiving dinner,” and the list went on. None of the stories were about a restaurant; they were about an experience with someone where a memory was created.

What I learned is great food alone did not create a memory. If my team delivered WOW customer service, it alone did not create a memory. In fact, it was less about me and my team and more about the guest and who they were dining with. It was the team anticipating the needs of their guests — and never breaking the connection the diners had together — that could make the experience memorable.

Hospitality in practice

To do this effectively takes small things that should go unnoticed. For example, I referred to a few examples of steps of service earlier. Here is how they would be executed with hospitality in mind.

When the server introduces himself or herself at the table, it isn’t, “Hi, my name is,” when they first greet a table. It’s about connecting with the guest first, finding something at the table to start a bonding conversation, such as noticing a shopping bag and saying, “Oh, I love that store, too.” After the server makes a connection with the guests, explains the menu and takes their drink order, the server starts to leave the table, turns back and says, “Oh, by the way, my name is David, and I will take care of you tonight.”

Then instead of checking back in three minutes after the food has been delivered and asking my least favorite question in the hospitality business, “Is everything ok?,” (because we strive to make your dining experience ok?) it’s about asking specific questions, such as is your steak cooked to the perfect temperature or isn’t the shrimp scampi to die for?

Another example is drink refills. Don’t interrupt the guests to ask if they want a refill. Drop a new one off anytime the drink is a quarter full and remove the old one.

See, great hospitality is an extension of great service, it’s the art of making sure your guests’ needs are anticipated and met for them before they ever have to notice things are not right or they need something. This allows them to create memories with the people they are with. And when that happens, your restaurant is the place they remember because when they dine with you, they always have the best time.

Hosted by Monti Carlo

Take it from restaurant guru Monti Carlo: These bare-minimum hospitality practices set the stage for diners to enjoy a pleasant meal at any eatery.

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1: A Welcoming Staff from the Very Beginning

Here’s what I love about hosts that greet you with a withering look: nothing. Being greeted with a genuine smile sets the stage for your entire experience.

2: Consistent, Frequent Service

Optimists aren’t the only ones who see their water glass half full. You do too, throughout your entire meal if you’re dining in a restaurant that takes greatness seriously.

3: Careful Attention to All Details

Spots are for leopards and crumbs are for birds. Attention to detail and a clean, spotless table are a must, especially when it comes to glassware, silverware and dishware.

4: An Appropriate Noise Level

It makes me so happy when I don’t have to shout at my partner in dine for him or her to hear me over the “ambiance.” (Unless my dining companion eats the last bread roll without sharing, which brings me to No. 5. )

5: Exciting Pre-Dinner Nibbles

When the meal starts with warm, fresh artisanal bread with an amazing olive oil or a beautiful compound butter that’s been left at room temperature so it melts with just one look . sigh. This is my moment of dining room zen.

6: Knowledgeable Servers

If I want an hour of no one having any answers, I can just watch the news. A well-informed staff that knows the menu inside and out, and can guide me through my choices, tells me I’m in for something good.

7: Relaxed Yet Efficient Service

Obviously the food should be #WONDERFUL, but it should also be well-timed. Meals should arrive in courses so the table never looks like a trough. The courses should also be complete. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for your fellow diner’s plate of food to make it to the table while yours sits right in front of you. It’s enough to throw me into an existential crisis: #ShouldIWait?! #DoIStartWithoutThem?! #WasMyExRight?! #AmISelfish?!

8: A Staff That Takes Responsibility

I don’t want to feel like I’m in a bad relationship if something is wrong with my food. Mistakes happen, but a great server doesn’t give a laundry list of excuses or push blame; she apologizes and fixes it ASAP.

9: Time to Eat a Meal in Peace

Ice Cube famously said: “Today was a great day. I didn’t even have to use my AK.” That’s exactly how I feel when I don’t have to shoo away a busser every few minutes. #YesIAmStillWorkingOnIt #SHEESH

10: Tidy Restrooms

You know that wave of relief that washes over you when your Tinder date actually looks like his picture? That’s how it should feel when you open up the bathroom door at a fine establishment. #SoFreshAndSoCleanClean

Want More of Help My Yelp?

Visit Food Network’s Help My Yelp headquarters to hear more from Monti and take our quiz to find out what kind of restaurant guest you are.

The holiday season gives restaurants a perfect opportunity to entice hungry holiday shoppers into their establishments. If past years are any indication, diners could spend nearly $100 billion at restaurants in November and December. Not to mention, one in ten adults plan to dine out for Thanksgiving rather than cook at home, and 2/3 of bargain-hungry Black Friday shoppers say they’ll refuel at a restaurant during the shopping frenzy.

But, as the retail industry knows well, the next four weeks present so much opportunity, but so little time, especially given a slightly shorter season this year. That means restaurants must strike while the iron is hot to attract customers and deliver a memorable experience that keeps them coming back after the first of the year.

While great food is a strong selling point, that’s also become the default expectation , according to guest experience guru Jeremy Wells. “ For restaurants and bars, the guest experience is everything. Literally, everything. We live life through experiences,” Wells said. In fact, in the coming year, guest experience is expected to become the primary value customers seek, superseding price and product.

That’s why r estaurants must get it right during this prime time in order to wow customers and keep them coming back. But creating that great experience requires so many aspects of operation, marketing, and creativity; it can feel overwhelming. Here are seven tips that can help you focus your efforts:

  1. Start before guests arrive. Anticipation of a great experience is a powerful enticement. Make sure your guests can find a menu online, including photos of the interior and signature dishes. Be sure your contact information and any special holiday hours are up to date in Google, Yelp, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and on social media. Take a page from the software industry and think about the “user experience” at this point. Is it easy for customers to find accurate info? If not, fix it.
  2. Make a grand entrance. It sounds obvious, but make sure customers are greeted, seated promptly, that the music is appropriate, timely, and at the right volume. You’ll want to make sure guests can talk and connect. Decorate for the season to create a festive, welcoming environment. Walk into your restaurant’s front door like a customer—would you find it enticing?
  3. Plan theme nights. The holidays present plenty of opportunity to create one-off experiences. For example, plan an ugly sweater contest or set up holiday games for families. Host a paint-and-sip or build-a-wreath event where guests can leave with a handmade craft. Offer a mixology class where your bartenders demonstrate how to make holiday-themed drinks for family gatherings. Or, offer a “Friendsgiving” week around Thanksgiving to bring in large groups of people who want to celebrate the holiday sans family.
  4. Create “sharable” opportunities. In the era of social media, a big part of any great experience is being able to share it with friends and followers. People want to show off your uniqueness because it’s a reflection on them as a tastemaker or trendsetter—they want to show that they were there for that special event or one-time-only opportunity. Create an experience that’s worth of “the ‘Gram” by setting up a holiday-themed photo backdrop or providing holiday-themed props. Encourage your servers to join in the festivities and take photos with guests. Get your own Snapchat filter so guests can tag their photos with your name and location. Create a holiday hashtag and post it around the restaurant. These tactics turn your customers into an army of marketers for your restaurant.
  5. Give back to the community. Consumers have a strong affinity for companies that do good, and the holiday season is a perfect time to demonstrate your philanthropy. Host a dine-to-donate night where a percentage of every check gets donated to a local service organization. Give discounts for guests who bring in nonperishable foods, personal care items, or new socks to donate to local homeless shelters. This builds a mission into your brand that holiday diners will remember, and as a result, will continue to support you after the New Year.
  6. Establish referral partnerships. Take advantage of the fact that shoppers are out in full force by partnering with a nearby retailer. Ask them to hand out discount coupons for your restaurant to customers as a spending bonus and vice versa. Pay it forward by offering coupons to holiday season guests that are good for dining in the months of January and February to drive business after the first of the year.
  7. Ask for feedback from customers. One of the best ways to find out what customers want is simply to ask them. Encourage servers to chat with guests about some of your holiday and post-holiday plans to get their input. Ask if there’s anything they’d like to see or events they’d attend. Of course, look at your online reviews and respond by thanking customers for positive feedback and discussing remedies for negative. You can’t improve what you don’t know about, so be vigilant about gauging customer response.

The holiday season creates a perfect opportunity to not only cash in now on the shopping rush, but also to build relationships with customers that turns them into loyal patrons. Creating an experience that stands out and shows you value their business is the differentiator that really matters during the holidays and year-round.

Check out these 5 little ways to delight guests at your restaurant and create the best possible experience.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

In the restaurant industry (and in everyday life), it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. When guests visit your restaurant, they are looking for more than great food; they are also expecting to have an enjoyable, stress-free experience. The staff, the decor, and the atmosphere play a significant role in determining how guests feel about their experience when they leave. If you want to delight guests and keep them coming back time and time again, you have to pay attention to the little things that can have a major impact on the overall guest experience.

Here are six simple ways to drastically improve the guest experience at your restaurant.

Guide to the Restaurant Guest

Learn how to navigate changing guest expectations during and after the COVID-19 health crisis.

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Proper Training

Each employee is a representation of your brand. It’s imperative that all employees receive proper training on the importance of customer care. Staff members should be trained to pay attention to little things like looking customers in the eye, to avoid referring to guests as “you guys,” and smiling and greeting guests as they arrive. These things may not seem like a big deal, but smiling and eye contact have been found to generate positive feelings like respect, trust, and support. Managers should pay close attention to how each staff member interacts with guests and make a point of reiterating certain customer care objectives during pre-shift meetings.


The best servers can recognize guest needs before they ask for them. Even during a rush, servers should learn to anticipate requests. The best service often goes unnoticed and, according to Matthew Greenberg, the former maitre’d at 2-star Michelin restaurant Melisse, “. anticipating your guests’ needs is the difference between good service and great service (FSR Magazine).” Bringing extra napkins, an extra plate for sharing dishes, promptly refilling water glasses – all of these things require very little effort and only a general level of attentiveness, but they can vastly improve the guest experience. When your staff is attentive to guests’ needs, guests can focus on the food and their company rather than on tracking down the server.


This might be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants overlook the importance of keeping everything clean. When the bathroom is dirty or fingerprints are left on the windows, it can send the wrong message to guests. If the restaurant doesn’t pay attention to aspects of their establishment’s general cleanliness, what does that say to guests about the kitchen area and the staff? Make sure to pay attention to the little details as they can make a big difference in the way guests perceive the quality of food and experience. According to a study conducted by Technomic, many diners rank the cleanliness of a restaurant as important as the taste and quality of the food.

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating at a great Melbourne restaurant – Maha.

The food was exceptional but what I came away from the meal with was…. well it was an ‘experience’ and not just a ‘meal’. A number of things went into the 3 hours that we dined at Maha that stood out and left me pondering what I could learn from the success of this restaurant and apply to my own business.

note: I’m not going to draw too many parallels to blogging specifically but rather will put the lessons out there and let people apply (or leave) them as they wish to their own situation.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Lesson #1: First Impressions and the Power of Contrast

Walking into Maha there was an immediate transformation that occurred that drew us into the experience.

Situated on a small and fairly ugly street filled with the back ends of buildings and car parks (I have to say I wasn’t expecting much of a place in this part of the city) – Maha’s fit out immediately created an impression that lasted for the rest of the afternoon (and beyond).

It was anything but like the street outside and was a luxurious yet tasteful version of a middle eastern dining room. Dark, cosy and inviting – in stark contrast to the bright, stark, surrounds of concrete outside.

Lessons: first impressions matter a lot and can create a lasting impression that sets up the experience someone has of what you’re doing. Unexpected contrast is also something that will grab people’s attention and make them take notice of what you’re doing.

Lesson #2: Simplified Dining

Sometimes dining in places like Maha can be an overwhelming experience for a guy like me. I’m no gourmet and being confronted with a menu filled with dishes that need translation and being overwhelmed with a wine list with so many options that I have no idea where to start isn’t my idea of a great way to start a meal.

Instead at Maha we were warmly greeted, seated and giving a very simple drinks menu (with an invitation for a more extensive one if we required it). The menu for the day was a banquet (chefs choice – although we could have some input if we had special needs) which I also appreciated. Conversation was not interrupted with choices of food and drinks and the overwhelming nature of those menus and wine lists were eliminated.

Lessons: choice is great but sometimes it can be overwhelming and simplicity can be appreciated.

Lesson #3: Engaging the Senses

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)
Throughout the meal it was not just our taste buds that were stimulated. In the corner a three piece band played middle eastern music, outside was a court yard where people smoked shi sha pipes (creating sweet smell that drifted into the room) and at the end of the meal we were offered to have our hands rinsed in a little lemon cologne which engaged both our senses of smell but also touch.

The cologne also made a lasting impression – even as I fell asleep last night it lingered on and I was once again reminded of the experience of Maha.

Lesson: engage the senses and you transform something that can be quite one dimensional into something experiential.

Lesson #4: Unexpected Gifts

When it came time for the bill to be brought to the table the waitress also delivered three small white boxes (one for each couple) with some small pastries in them. They were a little take home gift to extend our visit.

These gifts served a several purposes including:

  1. something we didn’t ‘pay for’ – it is amazing what impression getting something for free makes (or course we DID pay for the gift as the pastries would not have cost much and our bill more than covered it). This perceived extra value and a gift will of course create a lasting impression, increase the chances of us returning and telling our friends about the experience.
  2. extending the experience – today as I ate a pastry (24 hours after dining at Maha) I’m still thinking about the meal.

Lesson: gifts (big and small) and extra value create an impression!

Lesson 5: Focus Upon the Positive

As we were about to leave our waitress stopped by the table. Instead of asking if everything was ok (often the way wait staff word this question) our waitress asked us what our favourite part of the meal was.

Couching the question by asking us for the best part of the meal was a pretty smart move as it shifted our minds away from parts we might not have enjoyed (not that there were any for me) and onto the best parts of the meal just as we were about to leave. We left pondering the good rather than what could have been better.

This also served as a great way for the staff to gather feedback on what was working – something that no doubt helps them to continue to improve what they do.

I also wonder whether asking this question set up some cues in our minds that might be repeated later as we discussed the meal with others. We’d already each said something good about the meal within seconds of completing it – perhaps that’d be what we’d say next time we spoke about the meal.

Lesson 6: Choreography/Process

As we drove home from Maha V and I both commented on how those behind the restaurant must have put some real thought into the experience that they offered those who dined with them. Having eaten in another of the restaurants owned by one of the owners we saw some patterns in some of what we’ve mentioned above.

Our experience didn’t just happen. Everything from the ways in which we were greeted, through to the small touches like the lemon cologne and complimentary pastries were intentional and planned steps in a choreography of a typical visit to Maha.

I’m certain that the process evolved over time but the experience was not left to chance – there was a clearly thought through process in place which ensured the best chances of a great experience for diners and a profitable business.

Best of all, the ‘choreography’ wasn’t obvious or intrusive in any way, it just naturally unfolded.

Lesson: great experiences don’t always just happen. A little thought can go a long way to helping people move through an experience in a positive way.

Which of these principles could you take and apply in your blog or online business?

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

If you’re hosting a dinner party, you may want to go all out and dress your dining room to the nines—give them a fine-dining experience they won’t forget. You may want to emulate the dining experience of your favourite four- or five-star restaurant, or you may want to create your own classy vibe. Whatever you have in mind, a domestic fine-dining experience doesn’t need to break the budget. Here are five tips for creating a fine-dining experience for your special guests.

Get the furniture right

Furniture can set the whole tone of a room, so it’s important to get it right—especially in a dining room, where furniture is the main course (well, apart from the edible main course). Dining chairs in particular are fun to play around with. You can either have them all match the table, or you may choose to add a bolder and more oversized chair at the head of the table. This accent chair will offset your smaller chairs that span the length of the table. If you’d prefer a symmetrical appearance, you can add matching accent chairs at either end of the table. Whatever you decide, ensure to stick with the fine-dining theme, which can sometimes shy away from the modern look in favour of a more antique style.

Pull out your nicer crockery

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

If you’re going for a fine-dining vibe, this is no time to economise on crockery. If you have fine china plates—or even elegantly patterned plates—bring them out. If you have silverware that is not purely for display, bring it out. If you have a fancy tablecloth that’s been sitting around in your linen cupboard, bring it out! You may have more resources available than you think—and if not, then you can always outsource. If you’re a fan of coasters, ensure that they match your aesthetic. Lie everything atop the table elegantly apart. Perhaps watch some napkin-folding tutorials. If your guests are reluctant to disrupt your tabletop origami merely to wipe their mouths, then you know you’ve done something right.

It doesn’t have to be this elaborate but you get the idea.

Décor can make or break your whole vibe

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

‘Make or break’ is slightly dramatic, but the décor you use will contribute to your vibe almost as much as the furniture will. For instance, which centrepiece will take the floor atop your table? An elegant vase with a few freshly cut flowers can be a nice touch. Perhaps you want your crockery to revolve around a miniature statue or figurine. You might want to also check your wall art. Do your displayed images match your fine-dining aesthetic? For tonight, you may want to relegate those family photos to the loungeroom (or similar) to make way for an antique painting.

This predominantly green centrepiece complements the blue-green aesthetic. Sometimes you don’t need an abundance of flowers to strike the right impression! Image: 1825 Interiors

Make it inviting with mood lighting

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

If you’re fortunate enough to have adjustable lighting, use this to your advantage. Simulate the intimacy of a fine-dining experience by dimming the lights to an appropriate level. In lieu of adjustable lighting, you could also use candles—scented or otherwise—to fine effect. If you’re concerned about fire safety, you could also use fake candles. Adjust your heating or cooling to the season-appropriate temperature. Pop some music on—CDs or even records if you’re old-school. Otherwise, fire up the UE Boom and stream some tunes. You could even curate the playlist for ultimate quality control.

This is an excellent use of lighting. If you intend to host dinner parties often, it may be worth investing in some fancier light hangings.

Bring some good grub

Finally, the reason that we all came here: the food! What are you going to cook and how are you going to present it? Research some gourmet recipes prior to your big event. You can Google some recipes or invest in some quality cookbooks, if you prefer the tactile freedom of flipping through paper pages. Consider your budget and decide if you will accompany the main course with an entrée and/or a dessert. Ensure that you have considered all dietary requirements and cook to accommodate! Finally, ensure to present the food to look attractive atop your carefully curated crockery. It’s not just the dining room you’ll want to look good!

Updating your dining room doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We have 17 easy fixes that will add major drama for very little cash.

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Slip Into Something More Comfortable

There’s no quicker dining room fix than slipcovers. In a pinch, you can revamp your space with the seasons or whenever you need a change of scenery. Look for machine-washable slipcovers that can easily be cleaned when spills happen.

Hang a Chandelier

Make your lighting the focal point of the dining room for a budget-friendly and easy upgrade. With chandeliers, the more dramatic the better. Want even more impact? Choose a lighting fixture in a bold color.

Wake Up Your Walls

The dining room can be the most fun room in the house with a wall or four of an eye-catching wallpaper. Scared of the commitment? Temporary wallpaper comes in a variety of colors, textures and designs for an easily interchangeable look.

Add Some Floating Shelves

Floating shelves add an interesting element to this farmhouse dining room for relatively cheap. Put your most-prized dishware and collections front and center with this airy look.

Mix It Up

Who says your dining room chairs all have to match? It’s often cheaper to buy one or two chairs at a time, so you can save cash while you curate your collection of mismatched chairs. Want to save even more? Grab your chairs from a thrift or antique store.

Put Out Your Best Dishware

Is Grandma’s china collecting dust in a box somewhere? Turn it into functional art by putting it on display in your dining room. There’s no need to spend on art when you’ve already got a beautiful collection of plateware begging to be seen.

Add a Bench or Two

Benches are an easy design element to incorporate into a dining room for maximum impact. These wooden benches pair nicely with the leather chairs in this masculine space.

Go All In on One Color

Using different shades of the same color is an age-old trick to create depth in any room. This dining room blends modern and traditional elements with multiple shades of blue for a cohesive design.

Implement Wainscoting

A staple of traditional homes, wainscoting can upgrade any dining room into a stunner. There’s no need for a full remodel when this classic design element is added to walls. Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, it can amp up the style in any room.

Accentuate With Fun Furniture

Have fun with your accent furniture for an easy dining room update. This traditional dining room was pretty before, but the bright pink accent chair made it stunning. Adding just one interesting piece can instantly upgrade your space.

Add Some Bookshelves

Whether they’re built-in or freestanding, bookshelves are an unexpected focal point for a dining room. Display your collections to give your guests something to talk about other than your delicious cooking. The moody color of these shelves makes the colorful books pop out for an eye-catching accent piece.

Make a Statement With Seating

An attention-grabbing piece of dining room furniture, like this red beauty, is all you need to turn your dining room into the most talked about room in the house. Your other rooms might just become jealous.

Get Creative With Upholstery

Updating seat cushions is a simple and effective way to bring a new look to your dining room. Pick a fabric that brings you joy, and the dining room will always be your happy place. The best part? HGTV has a tutorial on how to upholster seats on your own to cut costs.

Cut a Rug

Who said living rooms were the only place for a show-stopping rug? Rugs come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s something to fit any space. Have fun with colors, textures and prints for an easy update to your dining room.

Create a Gallery Wall

Have a large collection of art? Put it to use by building a gallery wall in your dining room. Mixing up the sizes and types of art creates interest and dimension. The spacing of a gallery wall can be tricky, so be sure to plan it all out before the first nail goes into the wall.

Chalk It Up

A chalkboard or chalkboard paint are easy ways to add a fun and thrifty element to a modern dining room. What better way to utilize it than sharing tonight’s menu with your family and guests?

Score Some Vintage Artwork

Want to make an artful impact without breaking the bank? Vintage art and signs are often a fraction of the cost of brand-new art. This vintage sign perfectly matches the industrial vibe of this neutral-colored dining room.

Here are some ideas for inexpensive activities

New Orleans on a Budget

You don’t have to be a big spender to jump into a million-dollar New Orleans experience. The Crescent City can be easy on the wallet, if you know where to look. From happy hour specials to hidden gems, there are affordable options all over town, no matter what the season. Check out our neighborhood itinerary below, or explore our inexpensive dining options here.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

The French Quarter

This most historic part of New Orleans is famous for its white tablecloth restaurants, artsy boutiques, and craft cocktail bars. But you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the French Quarter.

Breakfast – Start your day with some chicory-laced coffee and pastry from Croissant D’Or Patisserie. Or treat yourself to a plate of hot beignets and café au lait from Café du Monde.

Follow your feet – Take a stroll through the picturesque French Quarter to see some of the most historic architecture in the country, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytère and Cabildo. Visit the Visitor Center of Jean Lafitte National Park and get free information and maps.

Ogle art – Window shop along Royal Street, famous for art galleries galore and soak up New Orleans’ local art culture.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Explore Jackson Square – Take a peek into the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, then claim a bench on the square and people watch.

Picnic Lunch – Order a traditional Italian muffuletta from the place where it was invented, Central Grocery, and take your sandwich to the river for lunch with a view.

Dine on the cheap – Port of Call is a great choice for a burger and potent Monsoon cocktail, or swing by Killer Po-Boys for some creative takes on the traditional New Orleans sandwich.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Drinks – Stroll along world-famous Bourbon Street and right into Pat O’Brien’s courtyard for a hurricane. Head to the “quieter” end of Bourbon and belly up to the bar at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for inexpensive libations. Located on Bourbon and St. Phillip St., Lafitte’s is lit mostly by candles and is supposedly haunted. In the mood for artisanal cocktails? Swing over to Bar Tonique across from Armstrong Park on Rampart chose from a menu of reasonably priced classic New Orleans cocktails.

Arts/Warehouse District

Enjoy a day of gallery hopping in the Warehouse District, one of the hottest developing neighborhoods in town.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Ogden Museum of Art – This museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world and offers free and discounted admission for students, seniors, and more.

Picnic in the park – Lafayette Square is the second oldest park in New Orleans. Pick up a sandwich from Cafe at the Square or Cochon Butcher and picnic in the square.

The Contemporary Arts Center – Known for its experimental and multidisciplinary exhibitions, performances and programs, the CAC is the perfect place to take in thought provoking work by local and internationally known artists at a reasonable price.

Happy Hour – Happy hour dishes the best bargains and small plates and drinks in the Warehouse Arts District. Check out Meril for happy hour deals with half-off flat breads and wine by the glass.

Uptown/ Garden District

Known for stately oaks and historic mansions, shopping on Magazine Street and eclectic restaurants, Uptown delivers a surprising array of well-priced options.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Take a ride – Hop on the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue. Riding the oldest continuously operated streetcar in the country is your best way to soak up views of live oaks and one-of-a-kind mansions and costs just $1.25, exact change please, or buy a one-day, three-day or five-day pass.

Breakfast – Camellia Grill is a landmark diner Uptown known for its rib-sticking breakfasts and entertaining servers. Grab a seat at the counter and enjoy the show.

Audubon Park – Go for a ramble under the leafy canopies of gorgeous oaks in Audubon Park, then relax in one of the covered gazebos and watch the ducks.

Lunch – Grab a sandwich or salad from St. James Cheese Company, a local cheese shop with a seriously loyal following. Or swing by Pizza Domenica, the casual off-shoot of the James Beard Award-winning Italian restaurant downtown.

Happy Hour – Sip on delicious cocktails at Cure, a pioneering craft cocktail lounge on happening Freret Street uptown with terrific happy hour deals (4-6 p.m. every day).

Dinner and Drinks – Freret Street is also up-and-coming for the restaurant and bar scene with eateries like The Company Burger and High Hat Cafe sure to satisfy the hungry on a budget.

Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge

If you really want to experience New Orleans like a local, spend a day in Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge for some off the beaten path bargains.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

There are ways to open a restaurant when you don’t have much money or if your credit has taken a hit. If you have a fantastic idea for a restaurant but lack the funds to get your dining concept off the ground, don’t fret. Even if your credit rating is low, it doesn’t mean you should give up your dream.

Banks may not be willing to finance your dream, but others may agree with your hot new idea and be interested in making an investment. Short of finding a non-traditional investor, a willingness to rethink your restaurant idea into a different concept can also help you get started. By starting out small with a food truck or self-catering company, you can demonstrate to the banks, investors, and the world at large that you’re serious about food and have what it takes to be a success.

Costs of Opening a New Restaurant

Opening a new restaurant can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those are the figures for a small restaurant such as a café or diner. If you don’t have enough money to fund the start-up costs, you have financing options.

Funding Based on Your Tax Structure

The first and most important consideration is how you will be structured as a taxable entity: a sole proprietor, limited liability company, or a corporation. Once this is established, you can determine the financing approach to take.

A sole proprietor would focus on borrowing, while a corporation can borrow or issue equity/ownership. For example, you may be able to borrow on the equity of your home or other property as collateral or you can apply for unsecured borrowing. Unless you make a compelling business case, traditional banks are probably not going to finance your restaurant dream if you have bad credit. However, others may look beyond your credit score and offer you financing at significantly higher lending rates.

Some institutions offer loans to those with poor credit. No-credit-check loans, such as short-term cash advance or “pay-day” loans, come with high-interest rates, as the lender takes on a higher risk of not being paid. Many experts recommend that you avoid these types of loans or at least read the fine print of the lending agreement carefully, as the loans may be predatory in nature and can lead the borrower into a long spiral of debt.

Personal installment loans, which come with credit checks, are the simplest type of financing to repay, as they allow monthly payments over longer periods on more budget-friendly terms. Lastly, you can look into obtaining a revolving line of credit, which is an open-ended line of credit that the lender makes available to the borrower. This type of loan is similar to a credit card, where the lender may increase the loan amount if the borrower makes consistent, timely payments.

Angel Investors

The term “angel investor” refers to a person or company who helps finance an idea or business plan. Traditionally, an angel investor will give you a certain amount of money for your business venture in exchange for ownership equity. Despite the angelic name, these types of investors don’t give money away because they’re nice. These investors see the value in your business idea and think that they will get something in return for their investment.

Because angel investors have their fingers in a lot of pies, they don’t always provide cash. For example, an angel investor might help you offset the cost of launching your startup by refinishing space in a building they own. In return, you sign a long-term lease with the investor, ensuring that they have a long-term tenant in the building that might attract other tenants.

Have a Business Plan Ready

It there’s a well-known businessperson in your area who invests in real estate or other ventures, think about reaching out. Just make sure you’re prepared before you make the contact. Have a well-thought-out written business plan ready that outlines your concept, target audience, start-up costs, and projected sales. This should include the type of restaurant you want to open, your identified target audience, and a detailed budget. Also, include your own qualifications as a business owner. If you don’t have any restaurant experience, think about what other kinds of experience you bring to the table, including any pro bono work.

On the other hand, you might be a seasoned manager, you’re great with numbers and have experience keeping books, you’re a phenomenal chef, or you’re an outgoing individual who can work the front of the house and function as a gracious host. Remember, you aren’t just selling your restaurant idea. You’re also selling yourself, and you need to demonstrate that you’re capable and knowledgeable with a skill set to offer.

Consider Operating a Food Truck

A little less daunting than opening a new restaurant is starting your own food truck. Food trucks require an initial investment of between $5,000 to $25,000 for a used truck to over $100,000 for a new truck.   The beauty of a food truck is that there’s virtually no overhead. You don’t need to pay rent or electricity. You don’t need to keep a fully stocked bar of liquor or hire a bunch of cooks and servers. Marketing can be done exclusively on social media, negating the need for a website and other traditional advertising material. Food trucks are still a lot of work and require the same attention as any small business, but the initial start-up costs are far less than a traditional restaurant.

Start With a Catering Business

Opening a new restaurant requires a lot of planning and implementation, not to mention an infusion of cash. An easy way to test-drive owning a restaurant is to do some self-catering jobs. Catering events, even small home parties, require all the elements of running a restaurant including menu planning and pricing, marketing, budgeting, food preparation, customer service, insurance, and bookkeeping. After a couple of catering jobs, if you still feel excited and committed to opening your restaurant, then go ahead and take the plunge.& nbsp;