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Parents Save Money With Kids-Eat-Free Deals

by South University
November 2, 2012 South Source learns how parents can save money by seeking out restaurant kids-eat-free specials.

Some may say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but several restaurants throughout the country are proving that old saying to be incorrect, at least for children. Many eateries are helping to make dining out more affordable for parents by offering kids-eat-free promotions.

“Ever since the economy downturn several years ago, parents have started searching for ways to save,” says Barry T. Yow, owner and CEO of “Whether it’s on a family night out meal or a family vacation, the internet has provided parents with more and more ways to find out about saving options.” 

“I just returned from a family vacation at the beach with my family,” Yow says. “After a day at the beach, my 9- and 11-year-olds were extra hungry and who wants to cook on vacation? With the average cost of a kid’s meal around $7, you can see where it adds up.  Parents with two kids could save well over $250 during a week-long vacation. Hey, that almost pays for the gas!”

Yow says grandparents are another demographic who commonly seek out restaurants with kids-eat-free promotions, as they are spending more and more time traveling and spending time with their grandkids.

Children don’t always eat everything on their plates, which is another reason Yow likes restaurants with kids-eat-free promotions.

“Many times I have taken my kids out to eat only to see half the food left on the plate,” Yow says. “Waste is never good and especially at $14 a meal, but when it’s free, I tend to not get as upset with them.” 

He says offers of free food for kids also come in handy when his children want to try something new.

From my experiences working in the restaurant industry as a director (of) operations, the quality is no different from the ones offered to the adults.

“The meals are small and free so if they don’t like it, it’s not a major cost,” Yow says.

Most restaurants also go the extra mile to make kids-eat-free nights fun by having games, balloons, and magicians on hand, Yow says.

He says business owners do need to be smart about their kids-eat-free promotions to control costs.

Restaurants typically do this by placing restrictions on the promotion such as offering one free kid’s meal per paying adult or entrée, stating that all free food entrées must come from the kid’s menu, requiring a minimum spending amount, and not allowing it to be combined with any other offers, Yow says.

“The original concept of a kids-eat-free night was to help business owners to pull in customers on normally slow nights,” Yow says. “Historically, that has been Tuesday nights since Sundays were for the family meal and Mondays for leftovers.  Tuesday nights are still the most popular, but Thursday nights are gaining.”

Yow says most parents order an appetizer, an extra drink, or even dessert when their kids are getting free food from the restaurant.

“(The) normal cost to a restaurant for a kid’s meal is around $3, which is no great amount when compared to a few drinks and/or desert,” Yow says.

Kids Eat Free From The Denny's Menu

Parents have been enjoying the benefits of discounted family dinners for years with the Denny’s Kids Eat Free special.

“With Denny’s Kids Eat Free offer, guests can receive a free kids meal for up to two children ages 10 and under with the purchase of each adult entrée of $2.50 or more,” says John Dillon, vice president of brand marketing and product innovation for the Denny’s Corporation. “The offer is available on various days of the week from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.”

Dillon says Denny’s offers this promotion to make family night out a bit easier and more affordable for parents.

“We certainly hope that our guests find our Kids Eat Free offer a great reason to dine at our restaurants, but our goal is to make a special night out with family easier to accommodate,” Dillon says. “Denny’s has always been a family friendly environment where guests of all ages can enjoy a satisfying meal anytime of the day or night. Dining out as a family is always a treat so we wanted to encourage families to enjoy a night out together without breaking the bank.”

As a primarily franchise-operated company, Dillon says Denny’s franchisees choose the terms of the Kids Eat Free offer on an individual basis, so parents should check with their local restaurant to see if it participates in the promotion.

Denny’s isn’t the only national chain restaurant offering money-saving options for parents.

Yow says restaurants such as IHOP, Applebee’s, and even a few McDonald’s also offer various kids-eat-free specials.

Hotels are even joining in the promotion, with Choice Hotels allowing children 18 and younger to stay free, when sharing a room with their parents or grandparents, according to certain terms and conditions, Yow says.

Holiday Inn offers double money-saving benefits to parents by inviting kids to stay and eat for free at their hotels, Yow says.

Quality Of Free Food Offered To Kids

Dr. Chizoba “Dr. Zee” Madueke, Ph.D., a Leadership instructor at South University, Online Programs says the free food in kid’s meals is very similar to the meals served to their parents and grandparents.

“From my experiences working in the restaurant industry as a director (of) operations, the quality is no different from the ones offered to the adults,” Madueke says. “They are mostly fried food, processed foods — such as hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, French toast, etc.”

Unlike the standard fare served to children at restaurants, Dillon says the Denny’s menu was created to include healthy options for kids that also taste good.

“Accessibility to nutritious menu options that don’t compromise taste, value or variety is an important step to improve the well-being of future generations,” Dillon says. That’s why Denny’s features a number of healthy meals and menu items on its kids menu. In fact, two dishes — Denny’s Junior Build Your Own Grand Slam® and Spaghetti Plate — were recognized by the Kids LiveWell program for meeting its strict nutritional guidelines and promoting the importance of making healthy food choices.”

Dillon says both of these items on the Denny’s menu provide children with the essential nutrients their growing bodies need.

“Denny’s Junior Build Your Own Grand Slam®, a pared-down version of the adult-sized classic, packs the protein and fiber growing kids need to tackle the day, complete with one scrambled egg white, two slices of delicious turkey bacon, hash browns and a small apple juice,” Dillon says. “The Spaghetti Plate, featuring spaghetti noodles topped with marinara sauce, a side of steamed broccoli, and a piece of garlic bread, provides a wholesome meal without excessive sodium, sugar, or fat.” 

Denny’s strives to please both parents and children by designing the kids-eat-free menu to include fare that’s both healthy and appealing to children, Dillon says.

Tags: kids eat free free food Denny’s menu

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