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Tired of the Wait at Popular Restaurants? Donate to Charity and Skip the Line

CharityWait allows you to be seated next at a restaurant with a long waiting list if you donate to charity

Feel good about helping a good cause and wait less time for your dinner? Sounds like a win-win.

Have you ever arrived at one of your favorite restaurants during the dinner rush only to find that there’s a two-hour wait to be seated? There’s an app for that, and it’ll get you in touch with your philanthropic spirit, too. CharityWait, a subset of the electronic restaurant reservation list SmartLine, allows you to be the next party seated if you donate to charity using their app.

“The initial response from restaurants & charities has been tremendous,” said Daniel Reitman, co-founder and CEO of SmartLine and CharityWait, in a statement. “Even before we officially announced our launch, we had over 150 restaurants sign up.”

CharityWait works with a number of nonprofits that help feed, clothe, provide water for, and educate people around the world, including Hope for Hope (providing education, nutrition, and water for children worldwide), Aid for Africa (working with children and families in Africa), Water to Thrive (providing clean water for underdeveloped African countries), and Rock-Can-Roll (providing food for the hungry through rock music).

Restaurants are still joining SmartLine to participate in CharityWait (the restaurants do not earn money from the app), and right now there are hundreds of participants nationwide. Participating eateries include Kotobuki on Long Island, Chez Lucienne in Harlem, and Jado Sushi in Harlem.

COVID is still with us. So are the bread lines

Diana Perry assisted drivers waiting in line at a Salvation Army food pantry in Lynn Friday. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

LYNN — A measure of how far we’ve come, and how very far we’ve yet to go: As millions across the country line up for COVID vaccines, millions are still lining up for help feeding their families.

Just before noon on Tuesday morning, they arrived at the parking lot by Manning Field in Lynn, where the Salvation Army runs a food pantry four days a week: There were newish cars and beat-up minivans elderly couples chatting, parents trying to contain giddy toddlers, drivers alone and peering at their phones as they waited.

They were unemployed or underemployed, the dry cleaners and restaurants that once gave them full-time work shut down or still limping. Or they were working plenty, but still trying to dig out of holes the virus dropped them in months ago. They were bus drivers and heavy laborers and kitchen workers. Some never dreamed of needing help like this. Others have been unable to survive without it for years, teetering on a cliff edge that suddenly got more crowded a year ago.

“I never visited a food bank before this,” said Barrios, 39. Like most who agreed to talk, he didn’t want to give his full name. The golf course employee got COVID in April and missed a month of work. Then his restaurant worker wife got it and was off for two months. Her hours haven’t come back because of the pandemic. They have three kids, ages 8, 12, and 17.

“We got seven months behind on the mortgage, and on bills and credit cards,” he said. “We live check to check. It’s scary.”

The rescue package approved by Democrats a couple of weeks ago will likely allay some of that fear, with cash assistance and child tax credits that could total more than $10,000 for his family. But Barrios seemed not to realize how much help was headed his way.

Others, like Julio Santana, 59, were well aware. The pandemic shut down his construction job, and he recently had shoulder surgery which will keep him out of work for a while. The pharmacy where his girlfriend works cut her hours.

“We are waiting for our $1,400,” he said.

But there were also people in the slow-rolling line who can expect no relief from the federal government because they are undocumented immigrants, working low-wage jobs in an economy built on their cheap labor.

“We won’t turn anyone away,” said Captain Kevin Johnson, who heads the Salvation Army’s Lynn citadel. On Tuesday he helped load boxes filled with produce, pasta, dairy, and canned food into trunks while others added muffins, frozen chicken, and other extras Johnson had wheedled out of stores and suppliers.

Before the pandemic, this operation was busy enough helping about 80 visitors a day, mostly individuals. The need exploded last March, to as many as 700 families daily. The pantry had to move here from downtown Lynn because all the cars brought gridlock to the city’s narrow streets.

These days, with some folks going back to work, the food bank is feeding about 250 families a day, four days a week. Since last March, the Salvation Army — just one of many organizations trying to meet the need — has distributed more than 21 million meals across the Commonwealth.

In the short term, the federal checks will be life-changing for many, especially those with families. But unless some of the rescue plan’s provisions become permanent, the reprieve will be temporary and, for too many, desperation will return.

Their renewed pain will serve as a testament to one of this country’s most enduring failures: Too many of us live so close to the edge that any disruption — let alone a global catastrophe like this ongoing one — is devastating.

“Look at your neighbors,” said Elizabeth, 56, who is behind on bills, lives with two elderly relatives, and still isn’t back to full-time work at her dental office. “A lot of people don’t say they need help, but they do.”

And what they need goes far beyond charity and a bread line. They need the America we ought to be, the one that made those big promises to the tired and the poor.

Around the World in 50 Restaurants : The Curious Irony of Hyperlocal Food

John Broadway holds an English degree from St. Olaf College and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Oregon. He attended the Culinary Institute of America before working as a line cook, in food and wine retail, and in sales for a foraged foods purveyor in the Pacific Northwest.

John Broadway Around the World in 50 Restaurants : The Curious Irony of Hyperlocal Food . Gastronomica 1 February 2021 21 (1): 65–67. doi:

The San Pellegrino Top 50 has been ranking restaurants across the globe since its inception in 2002. The list is labeled “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” voted on by “a panel of over 1,000 culinary experts” (Reed n.d.). The 2020 edition has been postponed so the brand can focus “its attention on supporting global recovery” from the pandemic however, a look back at 2019’s list offers a glimpse into contemporary haute cuisine’s great irony: hyperlocal cuisines supported by globe-trotting customers.

The current top restaurant, Mirazur, is located on France’s Côte d’Azur in Menton, population 29,000, and features “citrus fruit from the Riviera, saffron from Sospel, olive oil and lemons from Menton, wild mushrooms from the surrounding countryside, produce from the Ventimiglia markets, gamberoni prawns from San Remo, locally caught fish, and so on” (Mirazur n.d.). Even a pristine Mediterranean enclave would struggle to support a restaurant of Mirazur’s aspirations with a population less than one-tenth of nearby Nice. But international acclaim brings the attention of the global elite: at the height of its powers, El Bulli, another former world #1, would receive up to one million reservation requests annually for only a handful of spots at the restaurant (Matthews 2010). Its hometown, Roses, in Spain, has a population even smaller than Menton’s. It’s unlikely a local resident will pop by for dinner when the wait list is overbooked indefinitely. Eating at these restaurants is a luxury monopolized by those with the means not only to pay for them, but to travel to them as well.

Consider restaurants like Central, in Lima, Peru (currently #6), and White Rabbit (#13), located in Moscow. Central is a restaurant focused on rediscovering traditional Peruvian cuisine, and enjoys deep roots in the local Andean ecosystem. Its chefs forage for wild products and source local ingredients to prepare in sophisticated, creative ways. All very admirable, but with a menu starting at 568 Peruvian sol (approximately $168 US dollars) without alcohol, it is natural to question for whom this locality is intended. Peru is a developing nation with a poverty rate around 20 percent, and while their GDP is growing, it’s safe to say that Central is not a restaurant with broad local appeal (Central Intelligence Agency 2020). Business Insider’s review of the restaurant is at pains to point out that “Our waiter was friendly, happy to joke about the somewhat-ludicrous eating experience we were having,” but their idea of ludicrous didn’t encapsulate the irony of eating a monumentally expensive meal in a developing nation (Gilbert 2018). A Google Street View search for the restaurant shows it hidden behind a tall steel wall, topped with barbed wire—revealing a different face than the inclusive, locally minded attitude suggested by the cuisine.

White Rabbit offers an opportunity to taste luxury while literally looking down on local citizens. You can take in panoramic views of Moscow from the glass-roofed restaurant as you tuck into the “Platter Royale for Two” (8,300 rubles), “Crab cake, caviar, and champagne sauce” (1,990 rubles), “Filet mignon, parsnip puree, foie gras and black truffle” (2,850 rubles), and finish with “Porous pine ice cream and fondant with cedar pine nuts praline” (620 rubles)—a $183 meal (before alcohol) in a country where corruption is estimated to consume between 25 and 50 percent of their GDP (Milov et al. 2011).

This is not to say that chefs should be criticized for following their creative impulses or that efforts to revitalize local cuisines aren’t worthwhile endeavors. The chefs on the 50 Best list are at the height of their craft, demonstrably aware of shortcomings in the food system, using their own practices to model a better way. However, as a result of the heightened profiles created by reviewers like San Pellegrino, their restaurants become monopolized by the global 1 percent. Faced with high overheads and tight margins, top chefs can’t afford to locally source their customers as they would other ingredients, and consumers’ provenance isn’t included in the critical commentary determining a restaurant’s commitment to locality. Moreover, navigating the complexities of food accessibility goes well beyond any chef’s purview in the event a restaurant successfully raises the profile of a local cuisine to global levels, powerful market forces take over. Quinoa is a classic example: once a staple crop in the Andes, when global demand soared, prices rose and locals’ consumption rate dropped 4 percent. In Bolivia, one of the two largest quinoa-producing nations, 80 percent of the rural population still lives below the poverty line. The globalization of this local food has Bolivians turning to rice and pasta as the increased market price of quinoa obliges them to export their best production (Yu 2019).

Yet the presence and high ranking of such restaurants as Mirazur, Central, Hiša Franko, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Borago, and others indicates a trend: “hyperlocality,” a practice of sourcing ingredients exclusively from restaurants’ immediate vicinity, often appropriating traditional recipes or techniques from regional cultural heritage. Their common ancestor is Noma, former world #1 and current #2, the pioneer of New Nordic cuisine. The irony is that these hyperlocal cuisines are supported through international travel. The majority of “locals,” particularly in developing nations and even in developed ones, couldn’t be farther from these restaurants’ output, while the global elite travel thousands of miles to support localized procurement practices. The ne plus ultra of this double standard is Schloss Schauenstein, a hotel and restaurant in Fürstenau, Switzerland, #50 on the list and winner of the “Sustainable Restaurant Award.” Fürstenau is a remote mountain town of 345 residents. It is 260 miles from Geneva, 164 miles from Bern, 88 miles from Zurich—even native Swiss clients must travel to access the restaurant, while international customers can fly into the nearest airport, over an hour’s drive away. Clearly the burden of sustainability falls on the restaurant, not its patrons. A three-course meal runs around $225, including a mandatory two-franc donation to the restaurant’s charity—building philanthropy into excess just as locality is acquired through travel.

Hyperlocality facilitates an escalation of exclusivity for haute cuisine. The last big trend, molecular gastronomy, lost its luster among global tastemakers after its assimilation into the mainstream immersion circulators are now available at Target. Something new had to be found, and what better way for elite consumers to showcase their worldliness than championing irreproducible food from geographically disparate areas? Common food enthusiasts will have a hard time even getting to isolated restaurants like Asador Etxebarri (#3, in Atxondo, Spain), Hiša Franko (#38, Kobarid, Slovenia), or Hof van Cleve (#43, Kruishoutem, Belgium), let alone eating at them. The few with access get the added benefit of virtue, signaling that their conspicuous consumption is done in the service of promoting sustainability through rediscovering endangered ingredients and cuisines. The combination of chefs’ virtuous intent, consumers’ globe-trotting, and the experience’s inaccessibility for ordinary people is a potent one for generating social capital.

High placement in the list often correlates with chefs’ willingness to engage in socially or environmentally progressive ventures outside their kitchens. The late Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic Jonathan Gold wrote: “Restaurants in the World’s 50 Best tend to be run by chefs deeply aware of the societal obligations of their stature. Bottura, who also studies food waste, has opened soup kitchens in Paris Milan, Italy and Rio de Janeiro. The Roca brothers work on sustainable development issues for the United Nations. Daniel Humm of 11 Madison Park raises money for No Kid Hungry” (Gold 2018). The moral calculus is the perfect synecdoche for neoliberalism: wealthy patrons of top restaurants demand virtue from restaurants, even as their patronage illuminates the insufficiency of the progress they mandate. Chefs and restaurants are not responsible for fixing economic inequality. But the 50 Best list weaponizes chefs’ virtuous commitments to affix a veneer of progressivism on a flawed enterprise. The list is an echo chamber where the rich and privileged congratulate themselves for their sophisticated taste and laudable goals, even as their engagement with this cuisine contradicts its spirit. Their endorsement of hyperlocality ensures that the art they consume is safely sequestered behind the impenetrable barriers of cost, geography, and the occasional high metal wall.

The list’s utility is demonstrated by Paul Grinberg, an international operations manager for a major financial services company. Grinberg decided that as he traveled for his work he would eat at every restaurant, all 100 (the top 50 plus the additional 51–100), on the San Pellegrino list. As of 2018 he had already finished 99 of them. Asked for the restaurant he would eat at regularly, he cited Maido in Peru, saying, “Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s ability to fuse Japanese and Peruvian (two of my favorite) ingredients and flavors is wonderful” (Pomranz 2018). Purportedly to secure a reservation at his missing 100th restaurant, a sushi counter in Japan, he enlisted a team of sixteen people to make phone calls to the restaurant on his behalf when their reservation line opened. The 50 Best list in action: international financiers supporting subsistence-level jobs for restaurant employees as they splash huge sums to enhance their status among wealthy peers.

In the face of enormous challenges to the food system alongside staggering inequality, the global elite have hijacked the restaurant world’s best and brightest to serve their own ends. Great art ought to be accessible: museums are open to the public, great orchestras have free public concerts, operas offer discounted student tickets. It is imperative that criticism of this list goes beyond its obvious Anglocentrism, as if getting a more diverse group of people to serve the global elite is the only progress required. The hypocrisy of hyperlocality demonstrates the disconnect between the penchants of the wealthy and the reality of contemporary food systems.

Austin kid's smart service lets you skip the line at Franklin Barbecue

Franklin Barbecue is arguably one of the hottest spots in Texas, if not the universe. But the infamous hours-long wait can be a deterrent, even with the promise of life-changing brisket.

Enter BBQ Fast Pass, a new service from an enterprising middle school student that takes the wait out of Franklin.

"For a fee, I get in line while you're still asleep, wait in line until I get to the front of the counter and switch off with you," explains the BBQ Fast Pass website. "No waiting for you!"

Desmond, the smarty pants behind BBQ Fast Pass, launched the company's website on Tuesday. The middle schooler, whose clients include "locals, out of town visitors and companies" cooked up the business so that he can save money to buy a car.

In addition to funding Desmond's future ride, the money goes to a good cause. "I also donate 5 percent of what I earn to Austin Dog Rescue," says the website. "That's where I got my dog!"

To book this "premium line sitting service," all you have to do is email Desmond with the requested date, time and other specifics of your barbecue desires. According to his Twitter account, @BBQFastPass, the service costs a cool $50.

As restaurants across the country are adjusting to a new reality, local chefs are stepping up to support their communities. We took a look at how the chefs featured in our “You & Julia” series are helping, from cooking for neighbors, raising money for restaurant workers, to sharing tips for home cooking.

Joanne Chang and Andy Husbands are joining forces for a BBQ and Pastry popup. Chang and Husbands are cooking in their own home kitchens to “help you get through social distancing one rib and one cookie at a time.” They are whipping up specialties that you can take to go this weekend: Smoke Shop’s ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and Flour’s chocolate chip cookies, lemon ginger scones, vanilla birthday cake with homemade sprinkle. A portion of the proceeds supports the Greg Hill Foundation's Restaurant Strong Fund, which is raising funds to support restaurant workers.

Email Newsletter

Send out email newsletters.

Email newsletters are updates from your business emailed to your customers. These newsletter updates can include coupons, new items on the menu, limited-time offers, or any event you’d like your customers to know about. There are free newsletter services for a limited number of emails which you can use to start. At the time of writing, MailChimp will allow you to create a newsletter with 2,000 subscribers before charging for their service.

Sending out an email newsletter is an effective marketing idea you can use. Based on my own experience running a newsletter, it’s not uncommon for email sends to get a 20% open rate. This means there’s a good chance your customers will open and actually read the message if it’s interesting and valuable.

Outside Houston, a chef with a flair for the avant-garde serves up three hours of sorcery

KEMAH, Texas — Have you heard about the Texas chef who can pack all the flavor of French onion soup into a bonbon and make a strawberry taste like bacon?

Until Houstonia magazine trumpeted the story of David Skinner and Eculent restaurant earlier this year, neither had I. The headline was pure catnip for anyone who lives to eat: “One of the best restaurants in the world is in Kemah,” 45 minutes from downtown Houston. “And nobody has heard of it.”

Clearly, this skeptic needed to taste to verify. First, it took me time to get in. Eculent never seats more than a dozen people, and when two months’ worth of reservations for the three-hour, $225 dinner theater are made available, they go in a flash, like at the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen. Skinner, who doesn’t have a publicist and has never advertised, says he fills seats mostly through word of mouth and social media. A thousand people are on the wait list.

A companion and I arrive at Eculent on a Friday in May and are shown to a six-stool bar by Skinner himself, who is head chef, sole investor and owner of the adjoining winery and nearby bed-and-breakfast, too.

Skinner goes behind the counter to combine liquid nitrogen and mango espuma, sending out waves of fog. “Any ‘Game of Thrones’ fans?” he asks the assembly, which includes three couples celebrating anniversaries. This first taste is called Dragon’s Breath, which incites laughter as diners bite into the frigid, fruit-flavored canapes and exhale “smoke” in the process. It’s a trick and a title I’ve seen before — at the avant-garde Minibar by José ­Andrés in Washington — and frankly, the little moon rock at Eculent leaves an unfortunate impression, burning the tip of my tongue.

But there’s no grousing when you’re seated next to a woman who admits to being a Skinner stalker online and has nothing but adoration for him. Besides, before he feeds us another crumb, he wants to show off his little garden out front (“We grow 70 percent of what diners eat,” the chef says) and the food lab that serves as a combination prop department and pantry.

A 3-D printer seizes everyone’s attention as it transforms a spool of plastic into facsimiles of coral, which Skinner plans to use in a future seafood dish. “If they’re broken or taken, I can make more,” he says, then casually drops that he’s got a chocolate printer coming. Shelves are meticulously arranged with cookbooks and things in packets and plastic containers that look ordinary until you’re told what they are. (One fine black powder combines carbonized beets and turnips: pigment for the potato “stones” for an edible Zen garden.) Turns out Skinner can dispense 11 different scents electronically into the air, too. He invites us to pluck a dehydrated lettuce leaf off a little tree sculpture. Soon, everyone is marveling at the full flavor of a Caesar salad.

Even more intriguing are the bonbons under the tree. We’re told to eat them in one bite: French onion soup! “But it doesn’t burn your tongue,” says Skinner, whose sorcery relies heavily on “viscosity and time,” says the science geek. When he later tells me he opened a magic shop as a teen — and that astronauts are among his best customers now — I’m not surprised.

Skinner, 54, is a son of Oklahoma, where he says half his family was involved in oil and gas, the rest in entrepreneurship. His grandmother, a pastry chef who started teaching him to cook around 4 or 5, ran a kitchen shop. At 9, he was selling geodes he found on the grounds of his family's estate, along with items from an abandoned carriage house, from a wagon he pulled door to door. By 13, the devotee of Julia Child took over Sunday dinner duty at home three years later, he opened a restaurant at his grandmother's store, serving bistro fare on white linens.

While he studied economics and finance at Oklahoma State University, he also opened a restaurant staffed with the help of fraternity brothers. Jobs at Conoco and his own oil-field service company followed and allowed him to eat in restaurants around the world.

The Evolution of a Restaurant: Mission Chinese Food

Here's how a San Francisco couple powered by imagination and naïveté reconceived the restaurant experience, with Mission Chinese Food, then chronicled their success in a new cookbook, Mission Street Food.

A few years ago, my husband and I accidentally opened a restaurant.

We weren&apost chefs—I was a graduate student and my husband, Anthony Myint, was a line cook𠅋ut we thought it would be fun to sublet a taco cart and sell "PB&Js," sandwiches stuffed with pork belly and jicama. We set up shop at 21st and Mission in San Francisco and called ourselves Mission Street Food.

To our surprise, we sold out every week, and after a month of unexpectedly successful outings, we gave the whole production a makeover by moving our operation into a dingy Chinese joint on Mission Street. Lung Shan Restaurant continued to sell takeout chow mein, while each Thursday and Saturday, we served dishes like duck-confit nachos and foie gras sundaes to customers seated in the dining room, decorated with large-format posters of Chinese landscapes and Communist leaders on horseback.

The original location. © Alanna Hale

Soon, we revamped our business again by inviting local chefs and line cooks to collaborate with us on entirely new menus. The guest chefs would choose the night&aposs theme, and we&aposd follow them𠅏rom Indonesian to French, from Vegetarian to Whole Hog, from Tailgating to Escoffier, and from Italian Sushi to Mexiterranean. If we didn&apost have a guest chef, we&aposd make up our own theme, like 2010: Seafood Odyssey. But we wanted to do more than wrap asparagus tempura in lardo we decided to donate our profits to charity, usually local food pantries and soup kitchens.

Lung Shan used to serve just a few dine-in customers a day. But when we were in the kitchen, crowds would line up along Mission Street, wait for hours, and fill every seat, often sharing tables with strangers. Somehow, we had stumbled into community building.

Over time, Anthony and I grew into our roles as chef and manager, but we never exactly learned to be normal restaurateurs. We tend to disregard things like food cost and focus on fun stuff, like crowd-sourcing the funds for a 60-foot dragon chandelier to celebrate our latest reincarnation, as a Chinese-restaurant-within-a-Chinese-restaurant that serves Oklahoma-style barbecue and refined Szechuan cuisine.

Mission Street Food, as it was, no longer exists: While we still work out of the Lung Shan space, we&aposve changed our name to Mission Chinese Food. Our friend Danny Bowien is now the full-time chef, and Anthony and I have promoted ourselves to Executive Busboy and Executive Busybody, respectively.

In July, the San Francisco publisher McSweeney&aposs is releasing a book about our restaurant. Like Mission Street Food itself, the eponymous book is anything but traditional. It incorporates essays, satire, detailed visual recipes and a comic book. Also like the restaurant, the book will benefit charity: For each book preordered through our publisher&aposs website (, $10 will be donated to Slow Food USA.

The recipes here reflect our book and our experience as improvisational cooks. Deciding to completely redesign our menus twice a week taught us how delicious inauthenticity can be, and gave us the cross-cultural hubris to combine rice noodles, meatballs soaked with Asian fish sauce, Thai basil, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella and call it a Vietnamese Caprese. Our Chamomile Toast Crunch, thick pieces of buttery toast coated with sugar, caramelized with a blowtorch and served over a pool of chamomile-infused milk, illustrates our signature move, which is to elevate a homey dish with a highbrow technique or two. Ultimately, Mission Street Food was like that piece of toast: a naive combination of comfort food and haute cuisine that was more successful than we ever intended it to be.

Halloween horror story comes to life at Cracker Barrel

Every Halloween countless parents across the country will all worry about the same thing: sharp stuff in the candy. But despite the efforts of fearmongers everywhere, very little evidence exists of people actually getting hurt this way on Halloween — unfortunately the same can't be said for Cracker Barrel. In 2007 Barrel of Crackers was forced to recall frozen burger patties from 313 restaurants after a 56-year-old customer, Irene Grann, cut her mouth on a piece of metal in her burger. After the woman was taken to the hospital bleeding from her mouth, the restaurant manager reportedly found a piece of razor blade sticking out of the patty, and investigators later found another buried deeper inside. Mrs. Grann and her husband were regular visitors to the restaurant, and surprisingly declared their intention to return soon as it was one of their favorite places to eat. Most people who get a mouthful of razor blades at their favorite restaurant would likely start to wonder if the "favorite" feeling was mutual.

How to get free food and drink

These are the best ways to get free food and drink:

Use supermarket cashback apps

Supermarket cashback apps don't always guarantee free food – but at any given time there's usually a couple of freebies across each of the apps. And even when you're only getting a discount, the savings can be substantial.

All you need to do is download the apps, view the offers and check the eligibility criteria (like which supermarkets are taking part). Then, once you've bought the product, simply scan the receipt (and sometimes the product's barcode) and voilà – you've got your cashback!

As we said, not every offer will get you 100% cashback on your food but the savings are usually at least around the 50% mark. However, if you use Shopmium to its full effect, you could get referral credits that'll cover the rest of the cost too.

Become a mystery diner

Fancy getting free food from your favourite restaurants? Well, look no further than mystery dining. All you need to do is sign up to an agency, wait for them to give you an assignment at a local restaurant or food chain and then write a report on your experience.

These agencies are paid by the owners of the establishment to ensure certain standards are being met and, in turn, the agency 'pays' you for doing all the hard work.

The reason we say "pay" with a pinch of salt (pun intended) is that agencies will only cover your grub and you won't be paid in cash for your efforts.

Sign up to restaurant newsletters and apps

Loads of restaurants and fast food joints offer something free when you download their app or sign up to their newsletter, including the likes of Be at One, GBK and KFC (and it's worth noting that there are tonnes of other ways to get cheap and free KFC too).

Other chains are a little more sporadic in their offerings. Take Subway, for instance, who regularly give Subcard holders free sandwiches, cookies and other treats for all kinds of reasons (including, unsurprisingly, National Sandwich Day).

McDonald's are pretty generous with their app, too. They've previously given away Cheese Dippers, fries, McMuffins and to app users, as well as massive discounts on other menu items. Check out our guide to getting free McDonald's for more tips like this.

Cashback sites offering free takeaways

Credit: Paramount Pictures

If you're looking to get free food online, then look no further than our deals section – we're always featuring offers for free meals just for signing up to cashback sites like Quidco and TopCashback.

When we say that we're "always featuring" these offers, we're barely exaggerating, either. Most weeks there's an opportunity for new customers to register for a free account and be rewarded with a reasonably large spend at a takeaway company.

Typically it'll be something like £15 off at Domino's or Just Eat, which can often be enough to cover the whole order! Free food delivered right to your door. The dream.

Look for food waste supermarkets

Check to see if you have any food waste supermarkets in your area (yes, they really do exist!).

Essentially, food waste supermarkets have a deal with major supermarkets and restaurants meaning that any food that isn't up to their lofty standards – but is still perfectly edible – is donated to their warehouses.

This stops crazy amounts of food being wasted, and the products they have are amazing!

Use zero-waste apps for leftover food

We've all been there. You drastically overestimate just how many oranges you'll eat in a week, and all of a sudden it hits you – they're gonna go off before you get a chance to eat them.

Fortunately, precisely because we've all been there, there's now an app for you and everyone else to get rid of their excess food for free!

It's called Olio, and what's on offer will vary based on what people in your area have going, ranging from raw ingredients to leftovers from a cooked meal. Sometimes they may ask for a small donation to charity as payment, but more often than not there are freebies to be had!

Get paid to go to the pub

If eating for free isn't quite enough for you, it turns out you can even get paid to go to the pub now, too.

Sign up as a pub tester with Serve Legal and you'll be asked to visit pubs and confirm that they're checking the IDs of any young people buying alcohol.

Get first-order discounts on takeaway apps

Loads of takeaway companies offer free food when you first sign up to their app.

Free tea and coffee while you shop

Getting a free coffee from Waitrose is one of the oldest money-saving tricks in the book.

Back in the day, it was completely free for all MyWaitrose cardholders, but Waitrose eventually changed the rules and now you have to make a purchase to get your complimentary tea or coffee.

Doing your weekly shop at Waitrose can get expensive, so we wouldn't recommend switching it up just to get a free hot drink. However, as there's no minimum spend to qualify for the offer, you can just buy the cheapest thing going (apparently if you put a very small mushroom on the scale, it'll cost 1p) and still get your tea or coffee.

Get free food from your mobile network

Customers of O2 and Vodafone won't need us to tell them that their network hooks them up with some seriously good offers through their Priority Moments and VeryMe apps. Both are always giving their customers free coffees, free chocolate and even free beer – but what if you're not on either network?

Worry not, as we've got a guide on how to get O2 Priority Moments on any network. Just a heads up – you'll need to make sure you unlock your phone first (if it isn't unlocked already).

Eat out for free on your birthday

This one may only come in handy once a year, but you wouldn't believe how many restaurants and cafes offer free food on customers' birthdays.

Play it right and you can dine like royalty for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and have some cheeky free snacks to keep for the next day) without opening your wallet once. And, to clarify, it's just not food – there's plenty of free alcohol on offer too!

Use supermarket coupons

Credit: Monkey Business Images – Shutterstock

Using paper coupons at the supermarket may seem a bit wartime, but this little trick still has a place in modern life.

Now and again we'll feature a coupon for free food in our deals section and, more often than not, you'll either be able to print it off for yourself at home or find it in a free newspaper, like Metro.

Then all you need to do is find a shop stocking the product (after you've looked at the T&Cs to check if any chains aren't participating, of course) and present your coupon at the checkout.

Grow your own food

Having a small garden gives you the opportunity to grow an array of different fruit and veg, and free seeds often pop up on our deals page.

Allotments are great for the committed, but these can be scarce in some areas and normally involve costs (although sharing an allotment with friends or flatmates can work out pretty economical).

If you don’t have either of these things, even just a simple window box can play host to all kinds of herbs and salad greens.

And, if you're feeling super adventurous, you could even craft a small potato patch from dustbin filled with compost. Did you know that if you plant a single potato in there, multiple potatoes will grow from it? We're full of fun facts today!

Go foraging for food

The top chefs do it, so why can’t we? Foraging is something that can be done year-round by picking and collecting foods that are in season.

You'd need to take a wild food course to know what you’re doing when it comes to mushrooms/fungi, but others are easier to identify – and this super cheap guide to finding free food in the wild is a great starting point.

Obviously, this one suits the countryside dwellers a bit better and might not be a way to score free food if you live in a city like London – especially as we don't recommend breaking into any poor sod's allotments and nabbing all their precious veg.

Here are a few to get you started:

Wild garlic

Highly abundant and available throughout the year, it's usually easy to find garlic as it gives off a strong aroma (of garlic, obviously). The best time to harvest wild garlic is July–December, when the plant is dormant.


If you've ever gone blackberry picking at some point in your life, you'll know that it grows just about anywhere! They can be made into crumbles, pies, added to ice cream or made into jam. And the best thing is you can freeze them until you decide exactly how you'd like 'em!


Live by the seaside? You can also go cockle picking – just check Google to find out the best spots near you. Once they're cooked and thoroughly cleaned, they can be placed in a jar of vinegar to enjoy whenever you'd like.


Get free staff meals at your part-time job

If you're looking for a part-time job at university, then why not look for one that involves getting your food paid for?

A lot of cafes and restaurants will give their staff free meals during their shift, and also food to go home with if there are leftovers (although it might not be the best idea to ask about this during your interview).

Free samples of new food products

Restaurants, cafes and bars often give out samples when promoting events. And, elsewhere, big brands will sometimes hire promo staff to dish out samples of new products when launching.

The trick is to head for the busiest street corners you know of (train and tube stations are normally a good bet, too) and get your freebie-dar on.

Many brands also offer freebies online and will even cover postage costs. Our deals section and freebies page invariably list great free grub, and signing up to our deals roundup, Facebook page and Telegram group will serve up some edible freebies for you every week!

Enter eating competitions

Not one for the faint-hearted, but signing up to an eating competition can be a great way to get some free food and loads of free kudos points.

Often (but not always) eating competitions will be held for free (or the winner won't have to worry about parting with any cash), which is all the more motivation to eat up.

Meet-and-greets and networking events

Credit: Nottingham Trent University - Flickr

If you're yet to join a university society, this could be the push you need. Societies regularly hold meet-ups for members and these tend to involve free food and even free booze!

Freshers' week is probably the best time to join a society, and going to the freshers' fair should be one of the first things you do when you start uni. As well as being the ideal place to sign up to multiple societies at once, a fair share of the stalls will be giving out free food as a way to draw people in!

As for the societies themselves, not only are they are a great way to network and boost your CV, but you'll also fill your belly free of charge. Just don't get caught shoving the buffet sandwiches into your bag.

Supermarket openings and restaurant launches

If you know of a new supermarket opening in your area (or any other food shop for that matter), make sure you’re there for opening day.

You can pretty much guarantee there will always be free samples a-plenty on offer, so make sure you show up with an appetite!

Restaurant launches are great for this kinda thing too. While you may not get your whole meal for free (note: you still could do!), new restaurants will almost always offer a decent discount on their opening night (or opening week).

Exhausted all of these hacks for getting free food? Head over to our bumper list of ways to save money on food and make sure you never pay full price for your meals.

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