12 December 2005

Sometimes a free meal is about the right price

Most of my food suggestions going forward will be for quality food or a special eating experience. This, my first real food post, is simply about finding edible bargains. One of my favorite sources of finding great places to eat is this book:

"Roadfood" is a state-by-state listing of all the best backwoods, off-the-beaten-path smokehouses, burger joints, shacks, and lunch counters that dot the highway landscape. I am pretty confident that none of these places will be detailed in that book. I will come back to "Roadfood" in a later post, but for now, we can just focus on sustinence.

Many restaurants offer deals for signing up for the web site's mailing list. Often, these email newsletters will include coupons, promotions, or notices of menu changes. A good lot of these folks will also try to lure you in the door, at least once a year, with a free treat on your birthday or at sign-up. Some places may offer a free entree, others may just go with a dessert. For my fellow college counselors, you can always list your "birthday" on the email lists as being some time during a prime travel season, when you will be eating at a lot of restaurants anyway. You can, of course, have a different birthday at a different restaurant on a number of nights. This is especially helpful for those of us on per diem. The reality is, not many of these places actually check to see if it is your birthday -- they just care that the date on the coupon matches the date of your visit (most places give you two weeks or a month to use your freebie).

Folks that know me know that I am not a huge fan of eating in corporate restaurants. However, sometimes, these places cannot be avoided, and when I have to go, the least painful way is for it to be cheap!

These are the places that I know about. I belong to some, and have read about others. If you know of others, please let me know, and I will add them to my list. There are also local places that employ this type of promotion, so check when you hit restaurants in your area, as well.

Free appetizer at sign-up at Houlihan's.
Free birthday entree at Bennigan's.
Free birthday entree at Tony Roma's.
Free appetizer at sign-up at TGI Fridays. They also offer a loyalty program through Goldpoints, which can earn you some free eats.
Free ice cream cone at Friendly's. There is a separate program for your kids.
Free appetizer on sign-up and dessert on your birthday at Buca di Beppo.
Free dessert (and more?) on your birthday at Ruby Tuesday.
"Special birthday gift" at Red Lobster.
Free birthday sub at Firehouse Subs.
"Special birthday gift" at Rockbottom. They also have a loyalty program.

I am not sure what these places offer. They have some sort of club, or email mailing list, but I have no idea what you will get. If you find out, let me know!

Texas Roadhouse VIP Club
Damon's Grill
Uno Chicago Grill
Steak and Ale (owned by the same company as Bennigan's, which offers a birthday entree)
McCormick and Schmicks
And, if you can stand the talking moose on the wall, Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse has the Creek Club.

These places have a loyalty program of sorts -- usually entitling you to free stuff, free food, and/or discounts after a certain threshold purchase amount:

Dave and Busters offers $10 in free gaming chips and more...
Benihana's Emperor's Club
VIG (Very Important Gator) Club at RJ Gators
And, one that is hard to recommend, unless you frequent it often -- The Palm 837 Club. There is a one-time $25 enrollment fee, but you get back a $20 gift certificate. Why they don't just charge you five bucks, I will never know.


1 comment:

TJ Jackson said...

Why Steve....writing about chains, here on your own lil blog? tsk tsk

Anyway, I thought it'd be at least notewothy to have a regular RF adversary post your first (at least it appears to be) user comment.

I assume your job is at Florida Tech?