Whether you’re with a group on vacation, on a business trip, or have a great group of friends that likes to get together, at some point you all have to eat. Group dining, however, can get expensive. Each group will likely have different types of people with different tastes and different spending abilities. The best way to accommodate everyone comfortably without resorting to fast-food restaurants? Finding cheap restaurants for a group with flexible menu options to satisfy the maximum number of people.
After all, it’s not about where you go or how much you spend that determines how much fun you have. It’s about who you’re with.
Depending on where you go, there will always be local fare available to choose from. However, in my experience, the best way to have a meal out with the least amount of conflict is to stick to everyone’s comfort zone. In other words, go to the places you know or that are familiar to you.
What follows are some cheap restaurants for a group that can be found all over the country (maybe even abroad!), recommendations on how to look for local, affordable options and other ways to save money when eating out!
The Best Cheap Restaurants for a Group
This list is curated from the following criteria:
- It is available throughout most parts of the country
- Has a separate dining room to accommodate large groups (or they have the space to give you your own corner)
- A variety of menu options to accommodate different dietary preferences
- A range of prices to allow for different budget restrictions
- Drink menus and options
Who doesn’t love Italian? Unlimited breadsticks? Olive Garden is a classic option for your group dining and can be found all over the country. Plus, with wine pairing options, you’re bound to have fun no matter what.
One of their menu options is for a “family-style bundle” and, depending on what you get, can feed anywhere from 4-12 people at the cost of $24 – $100 for the group. Perfect for small or large groups!
We all know real authentic Chinese food can’t be found in the states, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Americanized version of it. Most PF Changs locations I’ve been to have had large dining rooms, a friendly ambiance, and plenty of options for anyone with dietary restrictions.
Red Lobster is probably one of my favorite chain restaurants to go to, and probably one of the best cheap restaurants for a group you can choose. Of course, your group of friends should have a fair number of seafood lovers to really get the most out of this place, though the menu does offer chicken, steak, and vegetarian fare.
In regards to affordability, Red Lobster offers various meal bundle options, including their “family meal deals,” party platters, and seafood combination platters. The pricing will vary depending on where in the country (or world) you are. However, going through some of the locations, I calculated that the cost for a family deal for 4 comes down to about $10 per person. Order a few of those for your group, and you’ve got an amazing, affordable feast!
If you’ve never been here, definitely make it a point to try it out. While you’re at it, order the biscuits. Those things are Red Lobster’s claim to fame.
So I’ve never personally been to Outback (I don’t eat beef), but I have been to other steakhouses, and there’s always at least one vegetarian and one chicken option on the menu.
Let me also say, Outback is not a typical steakhouse. I went through their menu, and while there’s a lot of red meat, there’s also a TON of other options to choose from. That’s because Outback has a, well, Outback theme with choices you wouldn’t find at more typical steakhouses. Plus, there’s a full-on cocktail, beer, and wine menu. The prices are also much more affordable than your standard steakhouse.
If you’re looking for a tropical, Caribbean flair to your dining, check out Bahama Breeze restaurants. This spot contains all your favorite foods, cooked with a bit of tropical spice. Think coconut shrimp and Jamaican jerk spices, yum.
Then there are all the amazing cocktails.
The menu is already pretty affordable, but if you want to save even more, they have a happy hour! On weekdays (check your local locations for specific times), you can get even cheaper drinks and appetizers for half price.
Joes Crab Shack
Another seafood-heavy option, but I put it on the list because Joes’ Crab Shack is an experience. The last time I went, which was years ago, at one point all the waiters broke out into song and dance.
The menu, for being seafood, is reasonable, and the ambiance makes it not only a great cheap restaurant for a group but also a super fun one! They, too, have options for ordering combination platters, making it a bit more affordable with a larger group. There’s also a gluten-free menu in case you need that option.
Every Cheesecake Factory I’ve been to has been massive. They somehow manage to grab up the best, largest, real estate they can find. This size is also reflected in their menu, which has pages of food to choose from.
While this is on the higher end of the dining spectrum, there is a ton of variety, and their meal portions are pretty big. This is definitely a place where you can opt to share food to save money. If you’re unsure, you could always choose to dine here just for dessert. As you can imagine, their cheesecake is amazing.
This restaurant is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, but they have affordable menu options and options that are amenable to sharing. Plus, they are fantastic at accommodating groups. I’ve been here twice for work events with over 10 people, and it was a breeze to find a table.
This is another restaurant where coming for happy hour or opting to dine during lunch may save money. Regardless, the great food, great service, and great ambiance will definitely make this a fun experience for your group. You can check out their menu here.
Other Ways to Save When Choosing Restaurants
When looking for affordable, cheap restaurants for a group that aren’t well-known chains, or are maybe outside of your comfort zones, look for these factors to save:
- Places with happy hours
- Places with a lot of appetizers on the menu – often these are more affordable and shareable, making it easier to spend less and still have enough to eat
- Large portion sizes – again, gives you the ability to share
- Opt to dine out together for lunch, especially for restaurants that you know to be more expensive. Lunch menus are generally lower priced than dinner.
Resources to Find The Options Near You
If you’re looking to dine local, there are plenty of ways to know which restaurants are located near where you and your friends are or want to go.
Aside from a simple internet search, you can look through websites like Yelp.com. Yelp will not only allow you to search by location, but also by cuisine and if you have any dietary restrictions. Looking for gluten-free restaurants? Just type in your search, and you’re sure to find options near you. You’ll also get information on whether they accept large groups and if there are happy hour options. Yelp also has a feature that allows you to “check-in” to your restaurant. Often by doing so, you get a perk, such as a free appetizer or drink.
Another option is to find TripAdvisor traveler reviews for restaurants in your area. TripAdvisor is a great resource and is especially reliable when you’re traveling abroad. With both of these resources, you can also make reservations and search the restaurants’ menus to make sure their options appeal to your group.
Open Table is yet another resource to check out. While it is primarily a reservation website, it will list popular restaurants near your location, and you can sort by price and customer reviews. Depending on the time of year or city you’re in, you may find restaurant deals occurring that you can take advantage of.
Finally, you can download the Restaurant.com app. It works kind of like a Groupon. You purchase the coupon/certificate/card for a restaurant, and you show it to your waiter. They’ll scan your certificate code when you pay. For instance, you can buy a certificate for $25 that holds a value of $40. So then you’ll get $40 off your bill. Alternatively, your certificate may call for a certain percentage to be taken off of your total. It’s another way to experience a new place without having to pay full price!
Going out to eat with your coworkers, family, or friends is always a fun time. However, given differences that may arise when you have so many people, it’s important to keep in mind that where you eat is not as important as ensuring you have enough options with different price points. These options for cheap restaurants for a group can be found all over the country and are pretty reliable in their quality and service.
Maybe one of these will work out for you and your group!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks and has been republished with permission.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya has a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. She teaches people how to save money, make money, and understand money.