The International House of Pancakes planned to announce yesterday free kids meals 7 nights a week for the next month. (The company’s Web site is down so I can’t confirm the announcement happened as scheduled but I assume it did.) Steak and Shake has been offering free kids’ meals on the weekends. (One free kids’ meal for every $8 spent.) And my girlfriend told me just last week, that every Tuesday night they head to Chick-Fil-A because their location has free kids’ meals when adults buy a dinner. (Is that at all Chick-Fil-A’s? I can’t find that on the Web site!)
Many restaurants across the county are offering free kids meals with the hope of luring families out to eat out in this bad economy. A USA Today article had some excellent statistics on the restaurant industry and their efforts to draw diners in.
“IHOP’s move, unprecedented by a national restaurant chain, is another signal of just how tough times are in the $566 billion restaurant industry. Restaurant operators have reported customer traffic declines for a staggering 22 consecutive months, the National Restaurant Association reports. Families are staying home: Visits from families with kids were down 5% for the year ended in June, NPD Group says.”
“Free is magic,” says Barry Schwartz, psychology professor at Swarthmore College. “It will seduce people into eating out who shouldn’t.”
“Some parents get so giddy about free kids meals that they celebrate by buying desserts or drinks and spend more than if they had paid for the kids meals, says Barry Yow, whose website MyKidsEatFree.com is tracking the trend. And, he notes, many chains don’t include drinks with the “free” meals.”
I took the kids a few weekends ago after church to the Steak and Shake. Michael was out of town, and I wanted them to have a treat. I think the meal would have been like $24 but with the deal it dropped to $16 plus tip. (Do you tip on the full amount or the discounted amount? I tipped on the full.) I had seen the deal in my AJC and that was why I decided to take them there. So in that case the free kids’ meal did sway me. (However, I did exactly what that expert in USA Today said and I ordered kiddie milk shakes, which were not part of the deal.)
I am a big IHOP fan and our family does enjoy going there so we probably would take advantage of free kids’ meals there.
So what about you: Would free kids meals encourage you to take your family out to eat? How often are you eating out? What is your motivating factor to eat out – running late to make dinner, don’t want to clean the kitchen, don’t feel like cooking, just a treat for the family?
Where would you like to see free kids meals offered? Have you ever been tricked by the drink/dessert move?
(You get two topics today. My kids were playing nicely in the basement. Please check out the topic: Are magazines misleading moms about “back to sleep”?)