"Getting free food works especially well with American fast-food restaurants. The first method is to complain. For this you have to be careful and make sure not to complain about anything that would reflect poorly on the workers, unless you did have an especially bad experience. You send a complaint that the grease from your burger made the box soggy and it collapsed and fell on the ground. Or that a crazy man walked in the restaurant while you were sitting down eating, sneezed on you and your food, and ran away. Be creative, but don't get anyone in trouble. These employees most likely already have horrible working conditions at a minimum wage job. A good amount of the time this will get you a voucher or gift certificate for free food from the restaurant.
The second method is to praise them on paper. This one is simple. You make a story up about how their food changed your life, or the affordability and quality of their food allowed you to keep your children from starvation after your husband died or something. Just make up a story about how much the restaurant means to you, and thank them. Pay for a stamp, and send it to the company HQ. There's a decent chance they will receive the letter, and reply with a thank-you card and coupons or samples. With these two, you should easily be able to get a few meals free depending on local store policies."
"In many large cities - especially in major centers of software technology like New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago, you can get insane quantities of free food and free goodies by attending free technology events. Websites such as 'Meetup', 'Eventbrite', and more specialized lists like 'Tech & Startup Events In New York'.
Other than working for the big tech companies like Google, some of the best free food can be found at hackathons. Hackathons are workshops that are often free and often run overnight, in which teams form to build something new very, very quickly. The participants are fed during that time. At the end, the teams demonstrate what they have made, and there are usually prizes.
Yep, the sodas and coffees these contestants are having would all be free. And so are these pizzas. Often, people don’t even make it to submitting a hack, and some come in to visit rather than enter. So, you don’t even need to compete in the hackathon to enjoy the free food.
Hackathons are filled with young people recently out of college, although older entrants aren’t unheard-of. Some are just learning to code. You would fit right in no matter your age. Overnight hackathons will give you a place to be for the night, and many people sleep on a chair or bench."
"Tim Horton's has lots of free donuts. I buy coffee form Tim Horton's daily. The receipt has a survey code. If you complete the online survey, you get a seven digit alphanumeric code for a free donut when you buy a beverage. This offer is only available once every fifteen days. So here's a trick I used to get a free donut every day. I started doing the online surveys. But since the site stores usage in my cookies and does not allow me to do it again soon, I use the incognito mode of Google Chrome to fill out the survey. I hand over the free donut code to a new cashier every day, as the nearest Tim Horton's has around ten different workers who handle three cash registers. I realized that the person at the cash register does not check the code and just hands over a free donut every time.
So now I have taken it to the next level. I have started writing random alphanumeric codes on my own. Sometimes I write my initials and a part of a student ID."
"I was scheduled to attend a seminar at a hotel. I got there early, and saw that in the meeting room, there was a full breakfast buffet. I helped myself to a large breakfast, then sat down, waiting for the conference to begin. I looked around the room and didn’t see any of my co-workers. Then, I also noticed that I didn't know anyone around me in this room. Finally, a slide came up on a screen which said, 'Welcome to Local Speed Dating!'
I took my plate of food and went to the correct meeting room. No food was being served at our meeting. My co-workers asked where I got the food, and I told them what had happened. The loophole is, if you’re ever hungry and don’t have enough money to eat, just dress really well and walk into a large hotel that’s having any type of conference. You’ll be able to just stroll in, eat some free food, walk around, then leave.
Yes, I realize many conferences have name tags and check-ins, as did the one I attended, but because I was dressed nicely and wearing a tie, no one said a word as I walked right in and helped myself to the buffet."
"This is how my colleagues and I had free lunch for weeks. Around 2010, McDonald’s introduced their McWrap in Sweden. To promote their tasty new Wraps, they created a game in the McDonald’s iPhone app, where one could find free wraps on a map while walking around in the real world. In order to receive a real McWrap, we had to find a wrap on the map, get there, pick it up by holding down our finger on the map, and then continue holding our finger on our phone’s screen until we could redeem the virtual wrap at a nearby McDonald's. If we let go of the screen, we would drop the virtual wrap and risk a hungry competitor stealing our virtual wrap. There were three different flavors and we could try one flavor once per registered account. Soon the wraps were getting scarce, and it was only easy to find wraps located far from any McDonald's.
Using a jail broken iPad together with two unofficial apps (one for switching between apps without putting them in background mode, and one for faking my GPS location) I was able to move wraps. To anywhere in the world. I could park outside McDonald’s and get my wraps from wherever they were to be found immediately.
However, I realized after a couple of days that it started to get tricky to find wraps at all. Others were obviously using the same technique. I had to hide my virtual wraps. The wraps would only show on the map if I was zoomed in enough, so if I could find a remote location in the world where nobody was likely to look, I could keep a pile of private virtual wraps.
I settled for a very remote island in the North Sea. I spent a couple of hours moving wraps there and soon I had my very own McWrap island filled with 100’s of wraps. I ate free lunch for weeks. My colleagues would call me up requesting wraps to be sent to various McDonald’s locations at lunchtime, a request that I happily helped out with. Eventually, McDonald's found out about the trick and started to log how many kilometers a wrap had traveled. I didn’t get very disappointed by this, as I was pretty tired of McWraps by then."
"I graduated from college, but I kept my old student ID. I also remained a subscriber to the newsletter of a particular campus club who gets some amazing breakfast spreads for finals week. They always send out newsletters letting students know this group has them covered if they need a study break. This is an amazing service provided by this club, they would get fresh fruit, squeezed juices, bagels and cream cheese of every kind imaginable. Now I know what you're thinking. Why would I take food that should rightly go to college students who are studying for finals!
Let me assure you that I attended the same university, and I have attended this particular breakfast spread while I was a student. When I went to this breakfast every semester, almost no one was there. They would often try to give me more food on the way out. The reason they send this newsletter out to the entire campus is that almost nobody shows up, so they have to figure out what to do with all the leftover food at the end of the day.
The other reason why you shouldn't judge me so harshly is that this club accepts donations. Now that I'm no longer a broke college student, I make sure to leave some cash after I help them out with their surplus problem. So I suppose it's not free if you donate out of guilt, but I still consider it an elaborate loophole."
"In the mid-to-late 90s, I could walk into a Little Caesars and get a free pizza any time I wanted! To be fair, it wasn’t always free. Sometimes they made me give them a quarter. On rarer occasions, they’d even make me work for it! Back then, at least in my area, all the local Little Caesars places had these 'Brain Teaser' games: you got three chances for a quarter. The scores are cumulative. A button lights up, you press it. Each successful duplication of the pattern revealed adds another button to the end of the sequence.
Apparently the prizes differed from region to region, but in my area, you had to score at least a 110 to get a free order of Crazy Bread. If you scored 210 or better, you got a free pizza (and when I started playing, Little Caesars was known for 'two pizzas for one low price', so I actually originally got two pizzas). All it took was memorizing some patterns, and I then received at least a few months of crazy bread. I decided next to see how far I could push it. As it turns out, I could push it pretty far! All I had to do was quickly and reliably be able to memorize a sequence of 12 numbers once, followed by two sequences of 11. I started blowing it out of the water, just to see how far I could go. As the people working there started to recognize me, I could just slide a quarter across the counter and get a pizza, and eventually they didn’t even make me give them a quarter! Sure, if someone new was working that day, I’d have to show them why I got free pizza, but most of the time it was just a matter of showing off.
Little Caesars went away for a long time, and when they came back, the machines didn’t come back with them. No more free pizzas for me. But it was fun while it lasted!"
"I used to go to Wendy’s every day with my group of friends. Since our lunch period was the first of the day, and I was able to sneak out of my gym class a bit early, I was first in line almost every day. I would order a 4 for $4 meal, which was a pretty good deal at the time. However, by the end of the year, one of the cashiers knew my name and order, so it would cut down on the time I had to wait for my food.
One day, that same cashier came over to my table. Around this time, Wendy’s was also promoting this 'Donate a dollar to charity for Free Frosties' capaign. She told us that if we completed the online survey and wrote her a good review, that she would give us some free frosty coupons. Of course, wanting the free food, everyone at my table started doing the survey.
So now at this point, every time I would come into Wendy’s, she would give me a big smile and ask me to do the survey. In return, she would give a coupon book, with five coupons for a free small Frosty. On the last day of the promotion, she handed me a stack of about 10 books. At that point, I was only using one coupon every time I went to Wendy’s, so I had way too many to use on my own. I had received 22 books over the two-month period, totaling in about 110 free Frosties. I started giving coupons to all of my friends and classmates.
The school year was about to end, and I had stopped going to Wendy’s. But when I did go, I did not see that one nice cashier. It turned out that every time I had written her name in a review, her superiors saw it, and there was an incentive program involving these reviews. She had actually been promoted to manager, with the help of all of our reviews. On the last day I saw her, she told me that the Wendy’s that we went to everyday had gone from one of the worst rated Wendy’s in Chicago to the best, according to the review algorithm."
"When some colleagues and I started the Computer Science Society at my university, we were surprised to learn that there was actually already a computer science society at our school. We had never heard of it because they offered no events, never advertised, had only a couple members, and reportedly spent their student funds on just getting pizza for themselves every week.
After the new Computer Science Society was founded, we got an email from the old president believing that he was in charge of our club. I don’t remember the details of how it happened, but I believe we actually managed to get the old club disbanded, and we became the undisputed Computer Science Society. Now we are hosting the school’s first Hackathon, and we will be distributing lots of free food to participants and volunteers. And so we turned a club that gives free pizza to only a couple people into a club that feeds over 400 people for 36 hours (albeit once a year). I’m not saying the point of our club is free food, but if it were, then we’ve come a long way."
"A few years ago I was working at a local residential facility for children. I worked from 3p.m. to 11p.m., which was the shift for dinner. Our facility policy was that if you worked a shift, you were allowed one meal from the kitchens. This was specifically because the morning shift covered breakfast and lunch, and that would have overstretched resources.
Anyway, I was always friendly with everyone while working there. I had a core shift, so getting along was key to survival. At some point the kitchen staff started to figure out what I liked to eat, and would give me extra. It was never of the main course because that was strictly rationed, but often I was given a salad AND fruit (we were only supposed to get one). There was a particular fruit salad they made that I was crazy about, and I always got two portions when it was on the menu. I suspect the administration knew this sort of thing happened and looked the other way. Sometimes patients were allowed extra servings as well, so a missing salad or piece of fruit wasn’t a big deal. I think that the patients also avoided the fruit, so it would have just gone bad otherwise. My mouth still waters thinking about that ambrosia fruit salad though."
"The absolutely worst thing, business wise, a restaurant could do is to be located near a college campus, have an all-you-can-eat buffet, and remain open 24/7.
This was the case of a restaurant when I was in college. Normally, we wouldn't have gone there. The buffet featured some very good food and a wide variety of it, but it was a bit pricey for poor college students. But late one Saturday morning we decided to head over for the breakfast buffet. As we're eating, they start changing out the buffet from breakfast to lunch and dinner items. My buddy Erik had this genius idea. There's no need to leave. We could sit here all weekend. That weekend we had other plans, but we planned it out and the next Friday after classes, we arrived ready for dinner. We had our book bags with us and turned dinner into a study session. Our plan was to eat a little at a time, so we'd always be actively eating. Later that night, we went from studying into a D&D session. We stayed up all night. Saturday morning featured breakfast and another 'study' session, continuing into Saturday night. We finally left around 10 p.m. Saturday night, having successfully lived in the restaurant for over 24 hours and getting maximum value for the purchase of our all-you-can-eat meal."
"I am not sure if this qualifies as a loophole, but it sure did get me a lot of free awesome food back in the day. The idea is to target a few common venues where wedding receptions take place. Now for those of you who don’t know, weddings in India are a huge affair. It is common to have a few thousand people at a reception, unless of course it is an exclusively small-scale one. Either way, the receptions that happen at the common auditoriums will be large ones for sure. All you need to do is to land up there with a group of friends and head straight for the buffet or the seated tables. With so many people around, no one will question you. Back when I was young and broke, I would crash many such weddings. I have never been caught or questioned once. No one really cares. With the number of people in India, you can be assured that each venue will have at the minimum 3 or 4 weddings a week. During peak wedding season, it can be 6 or 7 weddings a week. So, if you can be as shameless as I was, you can be assured of good food most days of the week."
"When I was in college, I had a friend that discovered and incredible way to eat for super cheap at Arby's. We would go in and make our first purchase, and then we were given a receipt that had a link to a survey that we could fill out for a free Beef n’ Cheddar. We would do the quick four-question survey and come in the next day, buy a small order of fries ($1.69 at the time), and redeem for our Beef n’ Cheddar and water to drink. We take the new receipt and go home to do the survey when we found a surprise.
Oh no, you're only allowed to complete one survey a month and your browser doesn't let you do it? Until you clear your cookies from the website and you could do another one, so actually there was no problem. We started to come in every day for a free Beef n’ Cheddar and the woman working there asked if we were giving her 5 stars every time. We said we were (and we actually were), and she started giving us free drinks. So basically for $1.69 a day, we got a premium entrée, a drink, and fries. That little scheme pretty much fed me through college until I discovered a new scheme.
In the southeast USA, we have a chain called Moe's Southwest Grill that has fantastic burritos, and every year on your birthday, if you were signed up on their email list, they would send you a coupon for one free burrito. The coupon would be valid during the entire week of your birthday and had expiration dates. All you had to do was open the email, and mistakenly on their part, you could just put your cursor on the expiration date and type whatever date you wanted. So my friend who taught me the Arby's thing and I started getting free burritos at various Moe’s restaurants all over town. We would just make sure that we didn't go to the same one within a few weeks twice, and we tried to remember the workers at the restaurants that had served us last. We ate like this for about 3 months before Moe’s caught on and started enforcing a 'Must present an I.D. to verify birthday' rule. Now they just stopped the emails and they have an app that gives you a virtual coupon that stops working after it is used.
I don't think either of these tricks work anymore, but it really made eating out affordable through college."
"There are a ton of companies out there where you can be a 'mystery shopper'. You sign up with one of the companies, eat at a restaurant on their list, and then fill out an online or paper survey afterwards about your experience. Then they reimburse you for what you spent (within certain limits), plus a few bucks extra. Some have more extensive surveys than others, some require you to discretely take pictures with your cell phone inside the place, as well as complete the survey, and some of the companies are total scams (they either don’t reimburse you or take forever to do it), but for the most part I had a good experience. Also, on quite a wholesome note, it does not involve stealing at all."
"At my university in my first year, a friend of mine living in the same hall as me had their oven break on them. To compensate, the university gave them free vouchers for meals at the on site restaurant. The problem with this? The vouchers had no specific dates, no name, no voucher number, no barcode, and it was printed on standard white paper. This meant that he was then able to scan the vouchers and print them off again for all our friends for the rest of the year. Guess who got free meals for months?!"
"I was 16 when I first started reviewing restaurants on a startup website called Zomato, which back then was mainly a directory that listed known food outlets in Indian cities. By the time I came to know about Zomato, I found a lot of these restaurants that I used to visit as a kid to be still operational and running. That gave me around 50 reviews to write about these legendary places, plus a sense of childhood nostalgia. I was off and running. Fast-forward one and a half years, and now Zomato was then doing this meet-up where they invite handpicked top writers from each city to meet for a meal. This event happened in a lot of countries and cities where they operated, and that was my first food on the house experience. It was a pretty upscale place by the beach, something that I could afford to pay and eat not more than once a few months. Now that's when things took a turn.
I became acquainted with some like-minded people. Weeks after that we were hunting for restaurants on the streets of Chennai. Each of us being a budding writer, we drove the online food community with our content. A restaurant we would visit and review on Zomato and other blogs would get a lot of attention and drive up business. There were bigger foodies in the city who already went to all the upscale places for food tasting sessions, but we stuck to quality and didn't bother for the free food. Fast-forward a couple of months, and most of our names became prominent and would pop up in the food PR communities pretty often. We started getting invited to random restaurants across the city, they wanted more and more reviewers, and it was all fun in the beginning. We didn't mind being instrumental for these PR companies (including Zomato itself).
There came a point sometime in the late 2015 in Chennai, when there were more and more 'foodies' attending, as PR companies felt that they shouldn't be dependent on just one set of bloggers. People who could write a word or two on Zomato or some blog were asked to review food. All that these companies and even the restaurants cared about is the content and your post for that day. Instead of us being invited to give our honest opinions about the food and service to restaurant, Zomato became a platform for free food and flaunting it all over their pages. Then it got worse.
By early 2016, the advent of Instagram taking over. So here comes the advent of 'Insta bloggers'. Search for hashtags #foodie #foodblogger #foodstagram and most of the top posts will be from them. Now Insta blogging is better. The reach is more instantaneous, though short-lived. I am not jealous of their instant results and immediate recognition, but it took me and the bloggers of my time some real hard work to get the recognition for whatever we wrote. I made sure to google about any dish I'm writing about (which I kind of still do) in case I didn't know its origins. On the other hand, a famous Insta blogger I got to meet recently complained there was to much cheese in the four cheese pizza, and could not differentiate basil and spinach, or even correctly pronounce a pretty common foreign dish.
Here's my ultimate guide to get life-long free food in restaurants, according to instagram bloggers.
Step 1: Start an Instagram account. Make sure to have a suffix of food and a prefix of the city you'd like to get free food.
Step 2: Gain followers. For a small fee, you could gain a solid 2k followers. Make sure to steal content from lesser known talented content creators, and totally ignore giving them due credits.
Step 3: Do some research to gain attention. This could be from commenting on famous food bloggers or restaurants feed to picking a fight on a reputed food group. Easiest of all be shameless to DM restaurants or PR firms for free food.
Step 4: You either get affirmation and an invitation for free food or get ignored. Most restaurants would agree, as they know they don't want to be rude to someone who potentially could ruin their business with a negative post, but since you don't care about the business or their food, just repeat.
Step 5: Profit."