Shoney’s, which will offer all current troops and veterans a free All-American BurgerVeterans Day is the last day for guests of Jersey Mike’s Subs to contribute to the chain’s long-running campaign for Wreaths Across America, a charity with a mission to “remember, honor and teach” people about the military’s sacrifices on behalf of the United States.

The holiday, celebrated every Nov. 11, is also a significant cause-marketing day across the restaurant industry, as brands throughout the nation seek to honor and appreciate veterans and active-duty service members with complimentary meals and menu items or donations to military support organizations.

Saluting the troops
Restaurants honor military with Veterans Day promos
More restaurant marketing news

Manasquan, N.J.-based Jersey Mike’s has been raising funds for Wreaths Across America since Oct. 1 through its integrated-marketing campaign called the “Social Giving Menu.”

The “menu” gave the brand’s social-media fans different options for spreading the word about Wreaths Across America, which lays memorial wreaths on headstones for veterans at Arlington National Cemetery and other military burial sites every year. Jersey Mike’s donated $1 for every Facebook post, tweet and upload to Instagram with the hash tag, “#givingmenu,” up to the goal of $25,000.

The chain announced Nov. 6 that it had reached the $25,000 goal from the Social Giving Menu, and a publicist for Jersey Mike’s said the brand was closing in on $100,000 donated for the year. The final offer from Jersey Mike’s in support of Wreaths Across America is a cookie giveaway from David’s Cookies to any customer who makes a donation to the charity at a Jersey Mike’s store on Veterans Day.

Enlisting other partners

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Several restaurant chains have tied their Veterans Day promotions to military support charities, in addition to treating service members to free food on Nov. 11.

This is the 13th consecutive year that Golden Corral has put on Military Appreciation Monday, serving military personnel a free dinner and beverage while raising money for Disabled American Veterans. This year, the Raleigh, N.C.-based buffet chain has enlisted actor Gary Sinise and rock band Collective Soul to record public-service announcements in support of the promotion, which is nearing 4 million meals served to veterans and active service members and $8.5 million raised for Disabled American Veterans.

Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc. is partnering with the USO to donate 15,000 storybooks to the organization’s United Through Reading Military Program. In addition, its three major casual-dining brands all have different military appreciation promotions this month.

Olive Garden is providing a free entrée from a special menu to veterans and active military personnel on Veterans DayOlive Garden is providing a free entrée from a special menu to veterans and active military personnel on Veterans Day, and all family members dining with that person receive 10 percent off their bills. From Nov. 11-14, Red Lobster is serving a complimentary appetizer to all service members, and during the same period LongHorn Steakhouse is offering all service members a free Texas Tonion appetizer and free nonalcoholic beverages.

Tampa, Fla.-based Outback Steakhouse is not only serving a complimentary Bloomin’ Onion appetizer to all service members on Veterans Day; the casual-dining chain is also offering a 10-percent discount to service members through the rest of the year. Outback has supported Operation Homefront for more than 20 years and has donated more than $2 million to that organization.

Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is giving away one free Tavern Double burger to any veteran or active service member on Veteran’s Day. In-store signage also supports the “Our Turn to Serve” campaign from Heinz and the Wounded Warrior Project. Red Robin has announced a separate $10,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project as well.

Sizzler also has signed on to Heinz’s campaign to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, in which guests can scan a QR code on the back of a specially marked ketchup bottle, activating a page that lets the user write a “thank you” message to an active-duty service member. The ketchup supplier will donate $1 to the Wounded Warrior Project for every “thank you” message created, and it will donate an additional 57 cents for every message shared via social media.

In addition, Mission Viejo, Calif-based Sizzler is offering troops and veterans a free lunch on Veterans Day — from a selection of a six-ounce tri-tip steak, Malibu Chicken or a half-dozen fried-shrimp entrée with a side dish.

Hooters is also offering veterans a free meal, up to $10.99 in value and with the purchase of a beverage, on Veterans Day. The Atlanta-based brand also runs several annual promotions for the military, including Operation Calendar Drop, in which fans who purchase a 2014 Hooters Girl calendar are encouraged to buy a second calendar and personalize it with a message of appreciation to the military. Hooters plans to deliver all donated calendars to military service members stationed overseas this winter.

Earlier this year, Hooters launched its inaugural Hooters for Heroes fundraising campaign, which netted $150,000 for the Green Beret Foundation.

On The Border, the Dallas-based casual-dining chain specializing in Mexican food, is offering its “Create Your Own Combo” menu for free to all veterans and active-duty military members on Nov. 11. That same day, On The Border is donating 15 percent of sales from guests who present a give-back flyer to Carry the Load, a nonprofitorganization that supports veterans, military families and first responders.

Another complimentary combo meal is available for military personnel at Columbus, Ohio-based Max & Erma’s restaurants. The casual-dining chain is offering a free Best Cheeseburger in America with fries and a cookie. The brand said its founder, Max Visocnik, was a military veteran and often served fellow service members with free meals at the original Max & Erma’s in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood.

Friendly’s Ice Cream, the Wilbraham, Mass.-based family-dining chain, is serving its Big-Two-Do breakfast and coffee to service members for free on Veterans Day in 15 eastern states. The brand also has an ongoing partnership with Easter Seals, another organization that serves veterans.

Serving those who serve

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Hooters is offering veterans a free meal, up to $10.99 in value and with the purchase of a beverage.Other brands offering a free menu item to members of the military and veterans on Veterans Day include Dallas-based Paciugo, with a free 12-ounce Gelatte beverage; Dallas-based Champps Americana, with one of seven varieties of free burgers; and Nashville, Tenn.-based Shoney’s, which is offering all current troops and veterans a free All-American Burger.

Louisville, Ky.-based Texas Roadhouse, a chain that does not serve lunch during the week, is hosting a special lunch event on Veterans Days to offer military personnel a free lunch from a special Veterans Menu. The offering includes 10 different entrees, including a 6-ounce sirloin, as well as the choice of several sides and a free soft drink or sweet tea.

Family-dining chain Bob Evans, which is based in New Albany, Ohio, is serving all-you-can-eat pancakes to veterans and active-duty personnel all day on Nov. 11. Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s is also offering a free all-you-can-eat pancakes deal to military members, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., for Veterans Day.

Detroit-based Little Caesars Pizza is offering a free order of Crazy Bread to military members for the day.

Dallas-based “man cave” concept Twin Peaks’ is offering active and retired military personnel a free meal, including any entrée, during lunch and dinner on Veterans Day.

Los Angeles-based California Pizza Kitchen is providing one free pizza to any active or retired military member eating in at its casual-dining restaurants on Veterans Day, and Lakewood, Colo.-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group is offering a free bagel and shmear to veterans and active-duty military at its Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s New York Bagels restaurants.

Veterans and active-duty personnel may also receive a free doughnut and small coffee from Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts on Veteran’s Day.

Contact Mark Brandau at
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