Free is black magic for parents at chain restaurants

It's not of Muggle born, says psychology professor Barry Schwartz, in a USA Today article about "Kids Eat Free" deals at restaurants, "free is magic."

To be clear: this is not Disney-style fairy tale magic. Schwartz follows up by saying these deals at restaurants such as IHOP, Fazoli's and West Coast chain El Torito could "seduce people into eating out when they shouldn't."

Most of the deals offer free meals for children under 12 during certain slow days -- Mondays and Tuesdays are popular options for local restaurants in Portland where I live -- and they nearly always require the purchase of an adult entree.

Both IHOP and Fazoli's have gone beyond the pale, extending free eats to every day of the week. At IHOP, it's offered between 4 and 10 p.m. through Septe. 13.

Fazoli's CEO Carl Howard doesn't beat around the bush. "If I have to give away something, I'd rather give away kids meals than adult entrees," he said.

This magical freeness has extended to adults at many chains this summer, from free breakfast at IKEA to free pastries at Starbucks, but the concept of a free ride for your kiddos does have a strange power. Especially when it's marketed directly to your children.

The child of a financially-strapped parent knows nothing better than to appeal to his mother's need to save money. Thankfully, none of the restaurants seem to have figured this out and put ads on cartoons, instead marketing the programs with photos of happy children sitting calmly in their chairs and eating their food with gusto.

Now that would be magic. Fortunately, you all have the magic words that break the spell: it's still way more expensive than eating at home. Here's a recipe for pancakes: and you won't have to apologize to the wait staff on your way out the dining room door.
Read Full Story

From Our Partners