When something is free, it's perceived value tends to increase. People find things more attractive if the price tag reads 'zero.' This psychology works to the advantage of restaurants across the country, as many companies offer customers a decadent snack or entree on the house to celebrate their birthday. Stacker has compiled a list of 50 restaurants that will gift patrons free goodies on their big day.
But let it be known: free is rarely actually free (except at Cracker Barrel and Denny’s). At almost every establishment on the list, to qualify for the complimentary birthday meal or snack, you must sign up for a restaurant’s email newsletter or free rewards program. Do the work at least a week before your birthday; subscribe, wait, and enjoy the birthday loot.
Here are 50 restaurants where getting older means getting fuller for free.
Cracker Barrel is a one-of-a-kind chain with kitsch-heavy throwback decorum. If you happen to be at the country store restaurant, just tell your server it’s your birthday, and they’ll bring a free dessert and sing you into your new year.
Unlike other restaurants that make you sign up for a rewards program for your birthday freebie, Denny’s offers something free to every birthday patron. Go into Denny’s on your birthday, show your ID, and get a free Original Grand Slam: two pancakes, bacon, sausage, and two eggs any style.
If you join the membership club at Jimmy Buffet’s chain restaurant, you’ll get a free appetizer for signing up and a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.
Hooters offers birthday goodies for members of its HootClub. If you’re a member and go to Hooters to celebrate your big day, you’ll get 10 wings for free.
Most famous for its Bloomin' Onion, an onion opened like a flower and then deep fried, the Australian-themed steakhouse chain offers a free vanilla sundae to rewards members on their big day.
Sprinkles, the cupcake shop with locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Washington D.C., has a pretty amazing membership club. If you sign up for Sprinkles Perks, you get free cupcakes every other Tuesday, a free item with every 15 purchases, and a free cupcake on your birthday.
If you sign up for Dunkin' Donuts' membership group, you’ll get a free drink on your birthday. The Massachusetts-born international chain is strongly linked to Boston, a town that calls it Dunks.
The ice cream giant has a Baskin-Robbins Birthday Club that offers its members—and their family and friends—perks on their birthday. On club members‘ birthdays, they receive a free 2.5-ounce scoop and $3 off a Baskin-Robbins' birthday cake.
IHOP made international news and went viral when it announced that it was changing its name to IHOb this June ('b" for burgers). A month later, it had already gone back to its calling card: pancakes. If you join the e-club, you’ll get a free stack of pancakes on your birthday.
Home of the ever-tempting Never-Ending Pasta Bowl and Unlimited Soup, Salad, and Breadstick deal, the Olive Garden also has a birthday special for those who sign up for its membership program. eClub members get a free dessert on their big day, so try your best to save some room.
If you join Club Baja (at least four days before your birthday), you’ll get a birthday gift to remember: a free burrito.
In order to get free food at Jersey Mike’s on your birthday, you need only to subscribe. Once you join Jersey Mike’s Email Club, you’ll be eligible for a birthday freebie: a free sub and 22-ounce drink from the fountain.
The Asian-style bistro specializes in American-Chinese food, but offers a wide variety of Asian-inspired dishes on its menu. To members of their rewards program—a sort of frequent flyer program for the chain—P.F. Chang’s also offers two-for-one entrees on birthdays.
After signing up for Pinkberry’s loyalty program, you’ll start earning a free frozen yogurt after every 10 purchases. Also, on your birthday, you’ll get a free fro-yo just for getting older.
CPK, the pizza chain known for its offbeat pizza toppings, has birthday deals for kids and adults. Members of the CPK Fan Rewards get a free pizza on their birthday, and for the under-12 cohort, the CPKids Birthday Club offers its members a free meal on their big day.
Though Arby’s is most known for their roast beef and the existential dread they’ve been known to deliver, they also give free goodies for your birthday. Anyone signed up for Arby’s rewards program will get a shake on the house for her big day.
Applebee’s has an eclectic menu—from salsa verde nachos to fish and chips to oriental chicken salad—but also a great birthday deal. If you sign up for their email Eclub, you’ll be eligible for a free dessert to celebrate getting older.
The home of wings, beer, and sports is not a hard sell for any day. On your birthday, it’s even easier to justify. If you join the membership program, you’ll get a free snack-size portion of wings on your birthday.
If you sign up for Einstein Bros. Bagels‘ Schmear Society, you get a voucher for a free egg sandwich on your birthday.
Birthdays are about decadence, but for the more health-conscious readership, Jamba Juice offers a free smoothie or juice for members of its Insider Rewards club.
Now, if decadence is your thing, Cold Stone Creamery also has a birthday deal. Members of the Cold Stone Club Rewards get a buy one get one free coupon on their big day.
Wingstop is obviously known for its wings. But if you sign up to its membership club, you’ll get a free side of fries to celebrate your big day, and another one just for signing up.
In 2004, Bruegger’s set the Guinness World Record for world’s largest bagel, creating an 868-pound behemoth at the New York state fair. On your birthday, they’ll give you a free regular-sized bagel with cream cheese if you sign up for their rewards program.
The family-style Italian chain restaurant is known for its large shared plates and crowded-with-photographs decorum. If you subscribe to Buca di Beppo’s online club, you receive a free pasta dish at signup and a giant sundae on your big day.
The pizza place most synonymous with mall food courts has a birthday freebie. Members of their Slice Society get a free slice of ‘za on their big day.
This chain burger joint offers bottomless fries, so come prepared. For Red Robin Royalty members, they also offer a free birthday burger for your big day.
Planet Smoothie has a slightly healthier option for your big day. They offer a free smoothie on your birthday if you sign up for their membership club.
Morton’s is part of the Landry’s corporation, and members of the Landry’s Select Club will get taken care of on their birthday at the steakhouse. Club members get a free dessert and $25 toward their meal to celebrate getting old.
In order to celebrate with some free food on your birthday at the chain seafood restaurant, just sign up for the Joe’s Catch newsletter. When you do, you’ll be eligible for a free appetizer on your birthday.
If you join the Big Yellow Cup Club, you’ll get a barbecue sandwich from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit for your birthday.
Though it’s not the most conventional pairing, Del Taco offers its eClub members a free milkshake on their birthday to go along with their tacos or burritos.
America’s most famous purveyor of cinnamon rolls offers a birthday freebie for Club Cinnabon members. Unlike other chains, Cinnabon switches up what the free snack is for members, so birthday freebies may vary.
Chili’s, an affordable sit-down lunch and dinner chain famous for their baby-back ribs, offers something sweet for birthday guests. Members of the My Chili’s Rewards club get a free dessert on their big day.
Checkers (also regionally known Rally’s) is a burger joint with a birthday deal. Sign up for their Flavorhood membership to get an order of free large fries, and then another on your birthday.
Members of the My Pretzel Perks Program at Auntie Anne's get a free soft pretzel for signing up and another on their birthday.
Members of Chevy’s E-Club get a free appetizer for signing up and a free meal (up to $12.99) for their birthday. They also get to wear a festive sombrero as everyone sings the special Chevy’s happy birthday song on their big day.
Dairy Queen serves burgers, salads, and chicken, but they’re best known for one thing: the Blizzard. Members of the Blizzard Fan Club, which has 4.3 million members as of Nov. 1, get a buy one get one free coupon for a Blizzard on their birthday.
The nostalgic Johnny Rocket’s is a whimsical 1950s-themed diner; allegedly, the chain is closely based on the classic West Los Angeles burger joint, Apple Pan. If you join the Rocket E-Club, you get one free burger for signing up and another on your birthday.
If you join the NoodlesREWARDS program at Noodles World Kitchen, you’ll get a special treat on your birthday. Many places offer cake or ice cream, but Noodles World Kitchen will hook you up with a Rice Crispy treat.
Panera Bread is known for its sandwiches, but members of MyPanera get something sweet on their birthday. As long as you sign up ahead of time, members receive a free pastry or sweet on their big day.
Quiznos’ membership program, the Toasty Points Loyalty App, gives one gift for signing up and another on your birthday. When you download the app, grab a free 4-inch sub; when you turn a year older, a free cookie is yours.