Everyone is always looking for ways to save money, especially when going out to eat. Little do some people know, there are a ton of different methods of saving money at a variety of chain restaurants. Surprisingly, it’s even possible to snag some free food from the likes of McDonald’s, Panera, Olive Garden, and more!
Coupons, loyalty programs, birthday perks – the list goes on! Here are the six best ways to save money the next time you want to dine out.
While some may turn to catalogs for coupons, or physical coupon books, others may rely on technology to give them the best coupons. Since technology has advanced so much, chain restaurants have their own mobile applications – offering users exclusive coupons/promotions or buy one get one free deals!
McDonald’s app allows users to check out their daily deals, such as: money off large-sized frappes, mochas, or lattes, free burgers, and 20-piece chicken nuggets for $4.99!
Love free ice cream? Dairy Queen’s app give their customers a coupon for a free small blizzard and, sometimes, a buy one get one blizzard coupon.
Wendy’s app includes a ton of great coupons, including: free spicy chicken sandwiches with purchase, $2 lemonades, $2 off of premium combos, free frosty’s, and even more!
Want a free Steak N’ Shake milkshake? If you download the Steak N’ Shake app, you can gain a coupon for a free milkshake with a purchase through the app. Also, for every $50 you spend at Steak N’ Shake, you get $5 back in rewards.
2. Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are actually a smart business move idea. These programs allow the company to get an insight into what their customers want, what they consistently purchase, and what their motives are. A lot of loyalty programs are participating in a paperless system by integrating the program within their mobile app, while others provide their customers with a physical card. And the best part about loyalty programs is that they are FREE!
Dunkin’ Donuts takes part in the mobile app method that they like to call their ‘DD Perks’ loyalty program. As someone who has been a part of their loyalty program, I can safely say that they do offer some great deals! The more points you gain, based off of your amount of purchases on their app, the more offers Dunkin’ give you – allowing you to, potentially, score some free coffee and donuts!
Starbucks also has a similar loyalty program to Dunkin’ Donuts, called ‘Starbucks Rewards’. The more purchases you make on the Starbucks app, the more points you can rack up. What I love about Starbucks’ method is that once you gain at least 150 stars on the app, you can redeem those points and choose any size of any handcrafted drink.
Auntie Anne’s has their own program called Pretzel Perks where they offer their members exclusive offers and rewards. If you make a certain amount of purchases at any Auntie Anne’s, it can add up to get you a free pretzel.
3. Birthday Perks
You may think that just going into a restaurant, telling your server that it’s your birthday, and getting a free dessert is sufficed enough – but there are other options! When you sign up for these exclusive offers through restaurant loyalty programs and email lists, you typically have to enter in your date of birth. These restaurants should email you, letting you know that you have a birthday deal coming your way.
Baskin Robbins offers their customers access to their Birthday Club, which ensures that the customers can go in and get a free scoop of ice cream on their birthday.
Carrabba’s has their Dine Rewards program that not only offers you a free dessert or appetizer during your birthday month, but a guaranteed 50% discount every fourth visit.
Denny’s deal blows it out of the water! All you have to do is notify your server that it’s your birthday, and you can get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam meal! While Denny’s does not require their customers to sign up for any programs, there is one catch to getting this offer: it has to be on your ACTUAL birthday. Denny’s doesn’t play any games, they read the receipts (aka your driver’s license).
4. Email List Deals
When you first subscribe to a restaurant’s email list, some restaurants may send you a promotional email, offering a “free appetizer” deal or maybe a discount. Some emails may even offer their email subscribers special access to seasonal specials, like Valentine’s Day deals.
Buffalo Wild Wings offers their email list a free appetizer if you sign up for their Blazin’ Rewards program.
Corner Bakery offers their email subscribers a free “sweet treat” deal when you sign up for their Corner Bakery E-Club.
5. Happy Hour Specials
Who doesn’t love a great Happy Hour deal?! A ton of great chain restaurants out there offer a wonderful variety of half-priced drinks and appetizer specials.
Applebee’s offers their customers half-priced apps from 3-6pm or 9pm-close, including: mozzarella sticks, boneless buffalo wings, spinach and artichoke dip, onion rings, chicken wonton tacos, and the cheese quesadilla. They also have 50% off Drinks: $3.25 tall domestic beers on tap, $3.50 wines and well drinks, and $4.00 Margaritas and Long Islands.
Chili’s happy hour specials can depend on your location, but the deals are just too good to pass up. Their happy hour specials include: $5 Tito’s Bloody Mary drinks, $3 large domestic draft beers, $5 wings, and a $4 half order of their TX cheese fries. Another cool deal Chili’s offers is the $5 Margarita of the month– all day, every day!
P.F. Chang’s has their happy hour from 3-6pm, Monday-Friday. Their deals include their food items under their “Street Fare” category (Chang’s lettuce wraps, spicy tuna roll, and more) for $6, their “Dim Sum” category (crab wontons, dumplings, and egg rolls) for $5, and finally, their “Drinks” category (cocktails, wine, and sake) for $6, and any craft beers for $4.
6. Status Discounts
Are you a student, veteran, or senior citizen? If you do qualify for any of those titles, you’re in luck! Many times, restaurants will include discount prices for people who have proof that they are a student, previously/currently in the armed forces, or are older than 55+.
Popeye’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Dairy Queen, and Zaxby’s all offer 10% off for those with a valid military ID.