Some years ago, I wrote in Clark's Big Book of Bargains about how to eat out at restaurants the Clark Smart way. At the time, I discussed the Bermuda Triangle of the restaurant industry where restaurateurs make their biggest profits: Appetizers, desserts and alcohol.

Now the Bermuda Triangle of dining is snaring diners because the price of wine is up. The Los Angeles Times reports wine production is at the lowest level since 1975 at the same time that consumption is up. Hence the squeeze play leading to higher prices.

This is a time to product substitute. You may need to become more selective about the wine you choose to drink and look for the deals.

Or why not have that glass of wine at home instead of at the restaurant? Or why not look for discounts on sites like Restaurant.com or use a site like OpenTable.com that lets you make reservations online and earn points toward free meals?

At most restaurants, the markup you pay on the main course is not nearly as large it is on the Bermuda Triangle. In fact, if you want to talk about profit, iced tea is just about the most profitable item on any restaurant's menu. It costs about two cents a glass and they can charge a couple of bucks!

Now comes word from restaurant research firm NPD Group that people have reduced how many beverages they order when they eat out. The consumption of tap water is up significantly as an alternative.

When I go out, I do everything I can to hold down the cost of the ticket. That includes drinking tap water and avoiding the Bermuda Triangle. But I always make sure to tip as if I ran up a bigger bill because the server is working just as hard.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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