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Avoid these restaurant tricks to make you spend more

Sunday - 6/12/2011, 7:16am  ET

AP: 380c5a61-a5c0-4737-9ebb-bd735baa6d56
Server Lisa Schwartz carries a tray of food at Sarducci's restaurant on Thursday, June 2, 2011 in Montpelier, Vt. A trade group said Friday, June 3, the U.S. economy's service sector grew in May for an 18th straight month, posting slightly faster growth than in April. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Whether it's for a special occasion, or just because the refrigerator's empty, going out to eat is an experience that can cost you plenty of money. Luckily there are ways to save, if you know some of the tricks restaurants use to get you to spend even more.

It can start right when you walk in, when you're not seated even though you see an empty table. The restaurant might not have enough servers, but they also want you to buy drinks or appetizers at the bar while you wait.

When you do get over to the bar, you should lay off the salty snacks. They're meant to make you thirsty, so you'll go for another round.

Once you're at the table, you should watch out for the specials. Some restaurants may use them to get rid of ingredients that are nearing their use-by date, while others will take a dish already on the menu and mark up the price, even without making any big changes.

You should also be wary of "upselling," which is when a server nudges you toward a more expensive dish, or extra add-ons.

And even though "all you can eat" can seem like a great deal, unless you're getting three or more extra helpings, it probably isn't. That's because restaurants get you to fill up on cheaper things like salad and breadsticks.

Investopedia points out that skipping all the extras won't just save you money - it could help your waistline too.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)