I don’t get as many birthday freebies as Bart Simpson does, but I think that I’ve signed up for more than most people. It takes a special kind of shamelessness to show up to a restaurant and only order what you’re getting for free.
The price you pay… and the secret
Many restaurants have email clubs that you can sign up for to get a free meal on your birthday. The price you pay for that freebie is that they get to market to you all year. Some send you an email once a week, some once a month, but all of those emails throughout the year add up to a significant drain on your time.
Here’s my trick for dealing with those emails: filters. Every time I sign up for a restaurant’s emails, I add their “from” email address to a filter in my Gmail. (Many chains use the the same email marketing company, Fishbowl, so you can add the
fbmta.com domain to your filter and kill a whole bunch of birds with one stone.)
Whenever I get an email that matches the filter, Gmail adds a special label and automatically archives the email, so that I don’t see it in my Inbox. I get the best of both worlds: I’m not spending mental energy on reading and archiving emails throughout the year, but when my birthday rolls around, I can pull up that label folder and find all of the emails that have the birthday deals.
The other reason that the restaurants have these birthday freebies is that they assume that you’ll bring your friends or family with you and spend a bunch of money. I generally short-circuit this by only bringing Sarah with me, since her birthday is just a few days after mine and we have the same coupons. A lot of the time, we’ll go into a place and walk out with two completely free meals, no questions asked.
My philosophy for email-club mooching is that the restaurant should give you a real meal for your birthday, not some of this “buy an entree and we’ll give you a dessert or an appetizer” silliness. (You can get that deal at basically any restaurant without having the hassle of being part of their email club.) When I sign up for restaurant’s emails and I just get a coupon for a dessert or appetizer with purchase when birthday time rolls around, I unsubscribe from that chain’s emails.
This year, I added a few new restaurants, so I ended up with more freebies than I ever have before. I’ll go through them in the order that we redeemed them this year.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
This is a Brazilian steakhouse with an all-you-can-eat salad bar and grilled meats on skewers. Similar to Tucano’s, they require a purchase to get your free meal. This was the first year since we signed up for their Club Rodizio, and I assumed that it would be similar to Tucano’s, so we were happy to do the BOGO deal. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in both the selection on the salad bar as well as the quality and taste of the meats. (They also didn’t do very well at bringing out a variety of doneness of meats. Everything was far too rare for our tastes.) I don’t know if we’ll go back next year.
This is the only freebie that I have that you don’t have to sign up for. Anyone can go to any Denny’s restaurant to get a free Grand Slam combo (four of their breakfast items). The only caveat: you have to go on your birthday to get the free breakfast.
When you join their Friends of Krispy Kreme club, you get a free doughnut of your choice along with a free fountain drink.
Noodles and Company
Their Eclub used to be good for a free noodle entree for your birthday. This year, we got a coupon for a free Rice Krispie treat instead. I like rice krispies just fine, but not enough to stick around for just that, so I’m unsubscribing from this email. At least it was a free-free dessert, not free-with-purchase.
Rita’s Italian Ice
Joining their birthday club gets you a free italian ice near your birthday. One of my favorites!
This is always one of our favorites — a great value. Get a free burger and fries (or side salad) as a member of their Red Robin Royalty.
Get a free 1-scoop cone when you join their birthday club. We have all of our kids signed up for this too, but a lot of times we don’t make it down to Orem before it expires.
This was the first year that we’d signed up for the Rubio’s Beach Club and we think that this was a great find! Plenty of great-tasting food! You get a full entree (plus chips and salsa) to be used around your birthday.
Another first for us this year, and another enthusiastic thumbs up! Joining their rewards program gets you a free whole pizza. Quite nice.
I have all of my kids signed up for their eClub to get this freebie, so I’m there getting a free 1-scoop sundae every few months. (It’s a nice daddy-daughter date that we do with the kids, and it’s more conveniently located than Baskin Robbins for me.)
We saved the best for last this year. This is the way that Brazilian churrascaria should be. So good. Joining their Club Tucano’s gets you a free meal anytime during the month of your birthday. The catch is that it’s not actually free, but a BOGO deal. We usually take another couple to share our two free meals, and each pay for one of the meals. Still so totally worth it.