How to Get Free Meals in Restaurants

Written by Paul Roberts

About the Author

For the last 26 years I have eaten out in restaurants EVERY DAY! Many times two or three meals in one day! About 98% of all my meals are from restaurants. I've spent so much time in restaurants that, over the years, I've, even worked in a few as dishwasher, cook, and manager trainee. I rarely eat out in fast-food establishments. I enjoy the "family-style, dine-in type" restaurants. The kind with a smiling hostess, friendly waitress, and a manager who gets around and speaks to all the customers. When I find a place that has good food and friendly service, I keep going back! It doesn't take long to be on a "first-name" basis with each employee that you deal with. Through the years of eating out, I've occasionally received a "FREE" meal! The following methods to receive free meals are NOT SCAMS or ILLEGAL SCHEMES! I'm also NOT going to tell you to get someone else to pay for your meal, but if it works for you... Go For It! I DID NOT go out and plan or create these methods, they just started happening to me!

"On the House"

By frequently the same restaurant often, you get to be pretty good friends with the managers and owners. On several occasions, I've been offered a meal "on the house" for one of two reasons: 1. Owner/manager wants my opinion of a new menu item and offers it free of charge, or 2. A dinner, either ordered by mistake by waitress, or prepared by cook by mistake... too good to throw out.. offered to me free of charge... Thank You! (Right place at the right time!)


I've also received FREE MEALS for doing the restaurant a favor from time to time. I once suggested my favorite restaurant to a local cub scout troop for a banquet location. I received a FREE MEAL from the manager in appreciation. A co-worker of mine was looking for a caterer for his family reunion. I suggested he call my favorite restaurant for a price (and mention my name). He got a good price - and I got a FREE MEAL in appreciation! Also, while "hanging out" at my favorite restaurant, I've been asked by the manager to run to the grocery for him to pick up some item they may need. When I get back, he's "taken care" of my check!

Secret Shopper Service

I once saw an ad in the classifieds for a secret shopper. I answered the ad and was hired by a national restaurant chain to eat in one of their restaurants twice a month. Each time I visited I had to make a full report on service, food, time it took, etc. I was reimbursed for my meals plus received extra money for doing it! Watch your classifieds, or you may start your own service.


Many restaurants offer discounts or free birthday cake on your birthday. I have found one restaurant that will give you a FREE MEAL on your birthday! I cannot print the name, but I can tell you it is a national chain of restaurants, and, you can get Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner for FREE! (I go to different locations for each meal.) Call your local restaurants to see what they do for birthdays.

Free Meal Benefits

A few years ago I decided to get a part-time job to make some extra money. Since I spent so much time in restaurants, I thought food service would be my first and best choice. I soon found myself working in a buffet style restaurant where employees can eat FREE on the days they work!


Probably the best way I've found to get "practically free" meals is to trade for a service or product. I say "practically free" because there is a very small cost involved. I had already owned a pin on button machine much like those you see advertised in most magazines. I've been making sports buttons for schools and teams for about 7 or 8 years. One day a manager asked me if I had any Easter buttons for his waitresses to wear for the holiday. I came up with a design, had it printed and took 25 Easter buttons to the manager. When he asked me "how much?", I didn't know what to charge. He offered me a $9.00 steak dinner, and I said "OK!" (NOTE: My TOTAL costs to make these 25 buttons was $1.63!!) The following month he wanted 50 Mother's Day buttons (25 for each of his two stores). I received TWO complete meals of my choice including drink and dessert!! Every major holiday for the last seven years, I've traded holiday buttons for "practically free" meals!! I've also approached other restaurants in my area and had similar success. NOTE: I only approach restaurants that I really would like to eat in. Just think, if you could barter with enough restaurants each holiday, you could accumulate enough meals to possibly eat "practically free" every day!!

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