Free Food: Average Joe Style!

You got a rumble in your belly and you are low on cash. What do you do if you want to eat good AND cheap? You learn to maximize your spending at outlets that reward you!

I know what you’re thinking, “You mean there is really free food out there Average Joe?”

Yep, and I chase it down every chance I get!

If you follow Average Joe on Facebook, I often post pictures of free meals or greatly reduced meals that I get. I like to eat out a lot, but, I need to save money. So, I focus spending my hard earned dollars on those places where I can stretch my dollars and get something for free, if at all possible.

But, what are the secrets and how do you get free food? Listen up Joe’s, class is in session.

There are four distinct, but very different and rewarding methods to us Average Joes earning free food. These include:

  • Taking Restaurant Surveys
  • Restaurant Coupons
  • Loyalty Programs/Apps
  • Straight up Arbitrage

Now, I am not here to address the healthy aspects of fast food (it’s not), I am just here to address the “getting stuff for for free” aspects!

There are 123 American based fast food chains, and God only knows how many regional fast food chains there are. That means there is a lot of opportunity to get and eat FREE restaurant food. And Joe’s, it is my goal to test each and every one of them for you! Unfortunately, I cannot include them all in this list at present, but, I will add to the list over time.

As there are multiple ways to score this wonderfully free food, I will make this a multi-part blog, each addressing a specific methodology (survey’s, coupons, arbitrage, and apps). This blog post will cover just ‘Restaurant Surveys.’

Restaurant Surveys –

You have heard of panning for gold, well, I survey for food. And, trust me, I make more surveying for food than I ever would panning for gold. And, I am not breaking a sweat.

What is a Restaurant Survey? Every restaurant owner fears one thing, their staff. Yes, a restaurant owner can spend millions of dollars on building, developing, and advertising their newest and greatest restaurant. But, one bad employee’s customer service skills (think Philadelphia Starbucks); one disgusting photo (you have seen them); or, one bad social review (you have read them) can have a lasting, even horrendous, impression on a restaurant’s social standing.

And, each negative impression drives away thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Some, negative events become so serious, an entire restaurant is shut down and shuttered costing employees their jobs, lost municipal revenues, and creating an eye sore in the community. All because of one bad employee. That is where we come in and we can have a positive impact on a restaurants development.

I do lots of restaurant surveys. Here are my two reasons why:

  • Almost every time I get a meal from a restaurant, I get a chance to take a survey. I love giving honest feedback. If the staff was great, smiling, and made feel appreciated; I love to give those hardworking Average Joes a shout out. But, at the same time, if the staff needs to go, they need to go. If a store is not well maintained, mention it. If a store looks great, mention it! Always give your honest feedback! It means and says a lot.
  • I don’t always need to buy a meal. If I am at or near a favorite restaurant and I know they give out great free stuff, I will take a moment to dig through some restaurant garbage to get me some extra receipts so I can take their surveys. To me, that’s like finding free money!

How do you take a survey? Look at the bottom of your receipt. You will see most restaurant owners asking you for your feedback either via email or phone, often anonymously. It only takes about two minutes to fill out a survey and in return, these receipts are your golden ticket to freebies (or chances to earn money) on your next visit! And, if you don’t want them, mail them to Average Joe, I will fill them out and I will get some free stuff!

And, to be honest, the restaurants have worked out the math and they know they are getting your dollars in return for their food. And, they are still making a profit.

Just remember our goal is to MINIMIZE their profits and MAXIMIZE our returns.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the good surveys, the not so good surveys and the rest –

Rewarding Survey Offers –

Dunkin Donuts – Fiercely dominating in the northeast of the United States; as you move west and south, they are not as prevalent, but there are some of these famous donut outposts scattered about the country. I love their unsweet tea; a stronger tea than most other restaurants, it is served big, bold and cheaper than most ($2.09 at my local stop); just like Average Joe. Taking their survey gets you a free donut! Which I give away by the scores! It’s just the Average Joe way. A savings of about $1.00.

McDonalds– In almost every American city and with an astounding 35,000 locations worldwide, McDonalds is the heavyweight in the fast food industry and the perennially favorite of kids (All of my charges love McDonalds). Grab a receipt and complete the survey for a free sandwich; the caveat being you have to buy one first. Still a solid buy one get one free deal. A savings of about $5.00 to $6.00.

Bruggers Bagels– Primarily a northern region bagel chain, with a scattering of restaurants elsewhere, they offer the absolute best deal for taking a survey that I have seen! When I am at my Minnesota base camp, I am at my local Bruggers almost every day. Just answer the survey, and you get THREE bagels free. Yep, you can actually eat and make a profit here. Many times I have bought just a tea and walked out with three delicious bagels. Here at Bruggers you are essentially getting paid to take a survey! An earnings of about $4.00.

Chick-fil-a– My favorite among the fast food restaurants, Chick-fil-a has never disappointed me. Except when I tried to become an operator, but that’s another story. Their survey, if you’re lucky enough to get it as they seem to be random, offers you a free original sandwich; without having to buy anything! I always look in the trash here for extra surveys. Oh, yes I do!

I did notice there was a recent change to how surveys are delivered and the one caveat is you now need an email address so they can email it to you. An earnings of about $4.00.

Panda Express – A perennially favorite of mine, I can easily eat here each and every day. I love the open kitchen, the free samples, and the impressive fast service. A survey here will get you a third free entree dish, like their Angus Top Sirloin, with a meal purchase. A savings of about $2.00.

Dairy QueenAn integral landmark of interstate travel, I am addicted to their blizzards: peanut butter, toffee and Oreo Cookie being my primary compulsions. The Dairy Queen survey offers you a free Dilly Bar without a purchase. An earnings of about $2.00.

Burger KingThe often overlooked franchise of the burger family, I do love their Original Chicken Sandwich. Their survey offers you a free sandwich, the caveat being you have to at least buy a small drink and fries. A savings of about $5.00.


The Not So Rewarding Survey Offers –

Chipotle– I love the food; but their survey will get you nothing but a big ol’ entry into their “Burritos for a Year Contest.” Hey, Chipotle, you could at least throw us a bag of chips!

Arby’s– With Ving Rhames shouting out, “We have the meats,” Arby’s has one of the most memorable slogans going. But, they offer no freebies for a survey; instead you get a chance to win $1,000.00 in return for your precious few minutes of survey time.

Taco Bell – I love 4th meal like the next person, but the Bell’s survey only gets you an entry for a $500.00 drawing. Come on Bell, throw us a taco…Just a taco for our thoughts.

Hy-Vee – While grocery stores are not what you think would be on this list, I have included they Hy-Vee grocery chain due to their inclusion of their bars, food stations and complete restaurants in their newer stores and their store frequency in the upper Midwest. Their survey will get you into a drawing for a $500.00 gift card, but no food freebies. Hy-Vee also has the very best arbitrage opportunities period for gasoline, money and free food and I mention them often throughout my blog posts. Combining my arbitrage, couponing and Ibotta techniques, I often earn money eating here.

And, The Rest –

Fazoli’s– Their receipt offers nothing in turn for your time. However, as a consolidation prize, they do have a great free entrée for just downloading their App. Seriously, download the App, and get your free baked spaghetti and breadsticks, a whopping $6.99 value!

Sonic Drive In– Billing themselves as America’s drive in, and purveyors of pure unadulterated comfort food like chilidogs, tater tots and corndogs, you definitely won’t be coming here for a salad. Personally, I am a fan of their corn dogs, (fried extra crispy), and I have been known to eat upwards of seven on a road trip. But, to my dismay, their receipt will get us nothing; nada, zilch, zippo.

Taco John’sTaking a cue from our school lunch days, Taco Johns loves serving the tater tots. Or, as Taco John’s like to say, the Potato Ole. Who knew taters and tacos could go together? Taco John’s knew, that’s who. And, while I am fan of the fried potato carb overload, their receipts won’t get us anything. Not even a small tater tot; excuse me, the Potato Ole.

Jimmy Johns – Wicked fast service, a great tasting sub, but a receipt that offers us nothing…C’mon Jimmy, a bag of chips for our thoughts?

Panera Bread – A good rewards program, but, nothing for our thought of the day. You can often find me in a corner booth reading the paper, typing away, or staring away in thought in a Panera when I am in a new city getting my bearings.

Raising Cane’s – The rising star of the fast food world, these guys having a WINNING formula; wicked good food, served HOT. But, if you got an opinion, keep it too yourself. They are not asking. But damn, it is good food…

Receipts, Receipts, Receipts…

What we do know Joe with all these receipts? Upload them into Receipt Hog.  A receipt will get you entered into a chance at some free money.  Average Joe has won! And, so can you.

Make sure you connect with me on Facebook and of course Instagram, as I am constantly posting ideas, updates and opportunities for the free! And check out our Stuff You Need page for tips and ideas on how to put more money, points and good stuff into your pockets.

Working hard for the Average Joe!