4 Best Restaurant Deals in July

Olive Garden Breadsticks
Steve Helber/AP

It isn't as easy as it used to be to score a restaurant bargain these days. Food costs and operating expenses are moving higher for most chains, and this is the kind of overhead that often gets passed on to seated consumers.

It doesn't have to be that way. This remains a competitive market, and even in this climate we're seeing some chains come through with deals on meals. Let's go over a few of the ways that some chains are trying to woo your wallet in order to woo your palate.

1. Olive Garden

Darden Restaurants (DRI) is no stranger to discounting at Olive Garden, but new management at the parent company has had a different idea since taking over late last year. Darden's new leadership wants to get customers to pay more for higher-quality food, and it's succeeding on that front. Comparable restaurant sales have moved higher despite declines in overall store traffic.

This doesn't mean that Olive Garden has completely weaned its diners off markdowns. Its latest discount promotion is an offer for a Tuscan Dinner for two for $25. After loading up on unlimited salad and breadsticks, a pair of diners choose any two entrees from a select menu. The meal is topped off with a tiramisu to share.

2. McDonald's

If feeding two people for $25 sounds like a deal, how about feeding 10 people at that same price point? McDonald's (MCD) is trying to raise the bar on summertime bargains by lowering the bar. Its latest promo offers a complete meal for just $2.50. Deal seekers can choose 10 chicken nuggets and a small side of fries or a double cheeseburger and fries.

If that sounds less expensive than the typical value meals at Mickey D's, it's because it's not including a drink in this combination. Tack on a soda or one of the fancier McCafe premium beverages and you can be paying twice as much. The key, of course, is restraint. If you can order the $2.50 meal and wash that down with a complimentary cup of ice water, you'll be beating McDonald's at its own game.

3. Outback Steakhouse

Some deals are specific to the day of the week. Bloomin' Brands' (BLMN) Outback Steakhouse has No Worries Wednesday -- on Wednesday, of course -- when three-course meals are available starting at $12.99.

A popular entree choice for the $12.99 meal is the 6-ounce cut of Outback's signature steak. Those seeking a larger cut can pay a few bucks more for the meal that also includes a salad and dessert.

4. TGI Fridays

Some deals don't pay off right away. Fridays kicked off a new promotion this month for its burgers. Anyone ordering one of the chain's handcrafted burgers will get a code on their receipt that can be shared online through social media. The first friend to claim the code gets a free burger at Fridays.

It's an interesting viral stunt, and at the end of the day can anyone truly stop someone from claiming their own code to get that second burger for free?

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

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