You are on the inside now. You did your homework, made the right connections, and now it’s time to make your move. Your research gave you all the secrets you needed to get what you want. They’ll ask questions, and you’ll have the right answers. Nervous? Sure you are. There’s a lot at stake here. One false move and your cover is blown. It’s all on the line as the moment arrives. They ask, “How may I help you?” You look over your shoulder, clear your throat and say, “Give me a black eye.” Without skipping a beat, they decode your message and deliver the goods. Mission accomplished!
Your reward? A black coffee with a double shot of espresso at a Starbucks. Don’t try looking for a Black Eye on the Starbucks menu because it’s not there. You should also be careful where you ask for a black eye, since it could result in the real thing. Take a look at Penny Pincher and you’ll see what I mean. Ordering off the hidden menu is becoming increasingly popular at chain restaurants and the options run the gamut from healthy to questionable. Like the thrill of knowing the secret handshake at an exclusive club, mastering the art of ordering from the secret menu can get you earn the VIP treatment while giving your budget a break.
There are secret savings in that hidden menu and you don’t have to look far to get results. Here’s a list of a few places and some of their hidden menu items:
- Animal-Style Fries: Add grilled onions, pickles and cheese to your french fries.
- Neopolitan Shake: A strawberry-chocolate-vanilla milkshake.
- Protein Burger: Two cheeseburger patties wrapped in lettuce, without a bun.
Here’s a look at an In-N-Out order of “animal style” burger and fries:
- Mc10:35: Named for the approximate time of the breakfast-lunch shift change, this is the inside of a McDouble burger with an english muffin instead of a bun.
- A Poor Man’s Big Mac– will you save up to 50% on the cost and some calories. It’s basically a McDouble with lettuce and secret sauce instead of ketchup and mustard.
- Power Bowls: Breakfast, lunch and dinner bowls with ingredients like eggs, hummus and turkey and no bread.
- Order your drink sans milk. Avoid the extra cost of having the barista add your milk for you by using the milk they have set out for free. So if you like iced lattes, asking for a triple espresso in a venti cup over ice, and then filling it with milk at the condiment bar is a great way to get an iced latte for about $2.
- Cake Batter Frappuccino: Vanilla frappucino with almond flavoring.
- Shell Game: The Cheesy Gordita Crunch with a Doritos shell instead of the regular crunch corn tortilla.
- Order a Veggie Whopper- you’ll get a vegetarian patty with all the same toppings you’d expect at 10% less than the cost of a regular whopper.
There are many ways to find hidden savings in secret menus, so the trick is to do your homework before ordering. Sites like #HackTheMenu and HiddenMenu can give you the inside scoop based on their own research and audience feedback. You can also go straight to the source. Restaurants like Panera Bread have a page on their own website that reveals the details of their special menu. Just remember that not all secret menu items are healthy or budget-friendly, so compare before you buy. There’s also the risk that your order might be rejected if a franchise location doesn’t participate. If that happens, be prepared to order something from the public menu or have an affordable meal at home. Oh, and you might get looks like this:
*Source: Paramount Pictures
We are Here to Help
Here at Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, we know it’s hard to maintain a frugal food budget with all the temptations these yummy hidden menus offer. If you’re trying to save, eat out sparingly. And if you want more budget help, get started with Clearpoint today. Our certified counselors are ready and willing to talk through your income and expenses and help you make a plan so that you can enjoy these secret menu gems without any (financial) guilt!