Is free your favorite word? It’s mine. And there is such a thing as a free lunch. I’ve found dozens of meals, desserts, snacks and other tasty treats that, for the most part, won’t cost you a cent at your favorite restaurants, bakeries, cafés and fast food joints.
To play it safe and keep your inbox from overflowing, create a special email account for eClubs, deals and loyalty programs. My advice: Don’t be afraid to fudge your birth date or year. That way if any company’s data is compromised, bad guys don’t get all the pieces to your personal identity.
Just for signing up…
Loyalty pays. Join eClubs for these popular chains and receive a tasty reward, no strings attached.
- Arby’s. Sign up for emails and get a roast beef sandwich with drink purchase.
- BJ’s Restaurants. Premier Rewards card holders get a mini Pizookie or handcrafted soda.
- Boston Market. Become a V.I.P. for $3 off a $6 purchase.
- Brio Tuscan Grill. Passport To Rewards members get a appetizer (up to $10 in value).
- Buca di Beppo. Sign up with its eClub for a small pasta.
- California Pizza Kitchen. Register for Pizza Dough Rewards to get a small plate item of your choice.
- Cinnabon. Club Cinnabon members get a free minibon.
- Del Taco. Become a Raving Fan for two grilled chicken tacos.
- Dunkin’ Donuts. Join DD Perks and get a medium beverage.
- Elephant Bar. Register for Elephant Bar Rewards to nab an appetizer.
- Fazoli’s. Ask for a Fazoli’s Fanatic card for clerks to stamp at each visit. Earn a free garden salad or dessert on your fifth visit and free adult entrée of your choice on your 10th time in.
- IHOP. Enjoy a breakfast entree with pancakes for joining the IHOP Pancake Revolution.
- Joe’s Crab Shack. Sign up for Joe’s Catch and get an appetizer.
- Maggiano’s Little Italy. $10 off your bill if your join its e-Club.
- Panera. Choose any bakery item after joining the My Panera Club.
- Pizza Hut. Hut Lovers get an order of cheese sticks.
- Qdoba. Chips & salsa or a regular drink if you join Qdoba Rewards.
- Rubio’s. Sign up at Rubio’s Beach Club for a taco on the house.
- Taco Cabana. Fajita taco for TC Fanatics.
- Taco John’s. A meat and potato burrito for Club TJ members.
- TGI Fridays Give Me More Stripes members receive their choice of appetizer or dessert.
- Waffle House. Join Waffle House Regulars for — what else? — a free waffle.
- Wienerschnitzel Wiener Lovers’ Club members score an original chili dog.
Let restaurants know what you really think for a yummy bonus. Save your receipts from restaurants and fast-food spots. Look on the bottom or back to see if you can participate in a customer satisfaction survey by phone or online. Follow the instructions and you are rewarded with free food.
- Answer a few questions for Smashburger and score an order of Smashfries.
- Tell Burger King how it is doing for a free Whopper if you buy a drink and fries.
- Fazoli’s dishes up a bowl of spaghetti marinara.
Buy and get…
Visiting your fave dining spot can earn you extra freebies.
- Jersey Mike’s. Sign up at any participating location for a Shore Points Card. Then, get points for every purchase (4 points for a mini, 6 points for a regular and 12 points for every giant) and redeem them (48 points for a mini, 72 points for a regular and 144 points for a giant) for sub sandwiches. Many stores routinely offer double points day, which can lead to a quick accumulation for a freebie.
- Menchie’s. Sign up for Menchie’s My Smileage Rewards in store or online and earn one smile for every dollar spent. Every 50 smiles equals $5 in Menchie’s money. Register your card online for 25 bonus smiles.
- Qdoba. With Qdoba Rewards, buy 10 entrees and get the next one free. Plus, get free chips and salsa or a regular drink when you register.
- Panera. The more you use your My Panera card, the more you get in return, from free pastries and flatbreads to discounts on sandwiches and salads.
- Red Robin. Buy 10 burgers, salads, sandwiches or entrees and get the 11th free if you have a Red Robin Royalty Card. Plus, if you visit five times in the first five weeks after activating your card, you receive $20 to use on your sixth visit.
- Starbucks. Earn a star every time you pay with your registered Starbucks Card. Five stars gets you free in-store refills. Gold status (30 stars) makes you eligible for free drink or food.
- Tokyo Joe’s. Get access to monthly deals by joining Tokyo Joe’s Addict Club. After signing up online they send you a Tokyo Joe’s key fob. “Flash your fob” and the deal is yours. Many deals are buy one, get a free — meal, drink, appetizer or kids meal or half-price specials.
Another eClub can get you free dining at even the finest of restaurants. OpenTable is a popular, free online reservation service. Once you create an account, every time you honor an online reservation, points are awarded. Most reservations net 100 points though some go as high as 1,000. Points can then be redeemed for OpenTable Dining Cheques: 2000 points equal a $20 check, 5,000 equal $50, and 10,000 equal $100. Dining Cheques can be used at any OpenTable restaurant and with more than 10,000 from which to choose, odds are you’ll find one that suits your tastes. Bon appetit!
Looking for more freebies? Be sure to check out these stories: Get free groceries. Get free stuff on your birthday. Know of a freebie we’ve missed? Be sure to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.