Going out to eat can be a great family activity. Whether you're celebrating a special day with your kids, stopping for a bite to eat on the way home from soccer practice or just don't feel like cooking, going to a restaurant is a great way to get everyone at the table together for some quality time. But eating out can get expensive. One way to get around this is to look for restaurants where kids eat free.
1. Why Do Restaurants Offer "Kids Eat Free" Deals?
There are about 49,000 children, ages 11 and under, in the United States today. Restaurant owners know that raising kids can be expensive, and the best way to get a lot of those parents to go out to eat is to offer them a deal they can't refuse. Creating a "kids eat free" deal makes it likely that families will return to the restaurant again and again.
2. Can I Bring my Kids to A Restaurant and Let Them Eat for Free, Without Spending Any Money?
Usually, no. Nor can children just show up alone and ask for a free meal. Restaurants generally offer this type of deal with the expectation that the adults will order meals. Most restaurants allow one free kid's' meal per adult meal purchased. Some restaurants will allow two.
3. Why Do Some Locations of Certain Chain Restaurants Offer "Kids Eat Free" Deals, While Other Locations of the Same Chain Restaurants Do Not?
Some restaurants are franchises. This means that the locations are owned by individuals, while the larger company oversees them. Usually, franchise owners have the option of participating in deals.
4. Will I Need to Bring Coupons to Get These Deals?
Not for the restaurants listed here. To get these deals, you just need to show up. Be sure to call ahead to your specific location to find out the details of the deal.
5. What Do Free Kids Meals Usually Include?
It varies from restaurant to restaurant. Some free kids meals include a side order, a drink and even a dessert. Others may just include the main entrée.
6. Is This an Extensive List of Restaurants that Offer "Kids Eat Free" Deals?
No. These are a few of the most popular restaurants that have locations across the country. You may be able to find more deals like this in your area.
How We Reviewed The Top 10 Kids Eat Free Deals at Chain Restaurants
The following restaurants were reviewed based on the days of the week the deal is offered, age groups it is offered to, and what is included on the kids' menu.
Overall Price Range of This Product
(and Similar Products)
The meals are free; the circumstances surrounding the complimentary kids' meals differ.
What We Reviewed
- Famous Dave's
- Steak N' Shake
- Jason's Deli
- Qdoba Mexican Grill
- TGI Fridays
- Pizza Hut
- Golden Corral
At this iconic pancake restaurant, kids eat free every day of the week, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Some locations extend this deal to 9 or 10 pm, and other locations may not participate, so be sure to call your local IHOP ahead of time. At participating locations, families can get one free kid's meal with each adult entrée. This means, if one adult is eating with two kids, you'll have to pay full price for one of the kid's meals. The free deal is for kids 12 and under and does not include drinks. Kids' meals may include the Build Your Own Rooty Jr, Funny Face Pancakes, Cupcake Pancake Combo, Jr. Chicken And Waffles, Jr. Cheeseburger or grilled cheese. Regularly-priced adult meals range from about $5 to $10, not including drinks.
Kids eat free here all day, every day, with an adult meal purchase. The deal is for kids 10 and under and does not include drinks. Some meals include side items, but others include only the main entrée. Items on the kid's menu include grilled chicken salad, BBQ Ribs, pizza, grilled cheese, cheeseburger, mini corn dogs, mac and cheese, bite-sized shrimp, chicken tenders, grilled chicken breast or steak. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $7 to about $20, not including drinks or appetizers.
This deal is available only on Tuesdays, at participating locations. Kids eat free from the Lil' Wilbur Menu with each purchase of an adult entrée. The meal, which is for children 8 years old and under, includes a side order, a drink and Oreo cookies. Menu items include Country Roasted Chicken, BBQ chicken, Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich, mac and cheese, burger, mini corn dogs or ribs. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $7 to $27, not including side orders or drinks.
Steak N' Shake
At participating Steak N' Shake locations, kids eat free on Saturdays and Sundays. This deal is a little different from others, because the number of free kids' meals is determined by the amount of money adults spend rather than on the number of meals purchased. For every $9.00 spent by an adult, one Kids' Plate meal is free. The deal is for kids 12 and under and does not include drinks or shakes. Menu items include steakburger, mini corn dogs, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, mac and cheese or hot dog. Steak N' Shake also has collectible cardboard "cruisers" free for kids. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $1 to $7, not including side orders or drinks.
KIds eat free here on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at participating locations. Some locations allow 2 free kids' menu meals per adult entrée of $6 or more, but others may just allow one. Menu items include pancakes. Jr. Grand Slam, French toast, Grilled Chicken On A Stick, spaghetti, cheeseburger, chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. With lunches and dinners, kids can also choose side orders of salad, grapes, corn, apple dunkers, broccoli, mashed potatoes, yogurt, goldfish crackers or banana slices. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $2 to $12, not including drinks or side orders.
Kids eat free at least one day of the week, but you'll have to call your local Jason's Deli to find out which day of the week they offer this. Some locations will allow two free kids' meals per adult entrée, while others may allow just one. Every kid's meal includes a choice of drinks: bottled water, apple juice, milk or chocolate milk. (They do not allow soda as part of kids' meals although parents are free to purchase soda separately, if they want their children to have it.) Menu items include mac and cheese, pizza, bowtie pasta with chicken Alfredo or meatballs, baked potato, chicken nuggets, hot dog, ham and cheese sandwich, turkey and cheese sandwich, grilled cheese or hot dog. Some of the items include a pickle on the side, while others include a choice of fruit, carrots or chips.
They also have an interesting "Kids Pick Four" option on their kids' menu. Kids can choose four items from the list: a piece of fruit, a hard boiled egg, cucumbers, organic carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini sticks or sliced cheddar. This comes with hummus or ranch dressing. This is a great choice for picky eaters who are more likely to munch on finger foods than to devour a sandwich. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from between about $5 to about $12, not including side orders or drinks.
Qdoba Mexican Grill
The days that this deal is offered vary by location, but most locations seem to offer free kids' meals on Saturdays and Sundays. One free kid's meal is offered per adult entrée. The meals include burrito bow, quesadilla, 3-cheese nachos or taco. Every kid's meal includes a side order and a fountain drink. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $7 to $9, not including drinks or side orders.
Kids eat free at participating locations, but the day of the week that this is offered varies by location. You'll want to call ahead to find out for sure. Where it is offered, families can get one kid's menu entrée for each adult entrée. Menu items include chicken tenders, sliders, pasta or mac and cheese. Meals include a kid-sized side order. Regularly-priced adult menu items range from about $10 to $20, not including appetizers, side orders or drinks.
Some Pizza Hut locations offer a buffet. At participating locations, kids 10 and under can eat free from the buffet on Tuesdays. Be sure to call your specific location to check the details. The regular price of the buffet varies by location but is usually around $5 to $8.
At Golden Corral, kids 3 and under eat free any day of the week. At some locations, any kids ages 10 and under can eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. The price of the regular adult buffet is between $9.50 and $15, depending on the day and time. This does not include the price of drinks. Kids between 4 and 8 years old ordinarily eat for between $6 and $7, not including drinks. Kids between 9 and 12 years old ordinarily eat for between $7 and $8, not including drinks.
It was tricky to make just one recommendation, especially since so many of these offers vary by location. We think that Denny's may be the best bet for families on a budget. The other restaurants' "kids eat free" deals were hard to find information about; Denny's actually mentions it on their website. Denny's general menu is also rather inexpensive. They mention on their website that the adult entrée must be at least $6, but up to two children can eat for free with one adult.
We figured out that: if two adults and four children go to Denny's on a Kids Eat Free day, and each person orders a drink and a meal, they can feed their whole family for about $20. (Kids' drinks are about $1, and adult drinks start at about $2.30.) That is a great deal for the amount of food each meal includes! We also love how, for lunch and dinner, the kids can build complete meals from the wide variety of entrées and healthy side orders. Be aware that the kids' breakfast menu is not quite as healthy as the lunch and dinner menus. Many of the choices include whipped cream and chocolate chips.
For health-conscious parents, Jason's Deli is another great choice. They pride themselves on offering only nutritious food for children and even partner with the Texas Health Institute. They keep dyes, artificial trans fats and flavors, MSG and high fructose corn syrup out of their kids' menu choices. They also have some gluten-free options, which is important for parents who have a child on a gluten-free diet.
In fact, their gluten-free chicken nuggets were listed in an article called "20 Best Kids-Menu Dishes" in the March 2015 issue of Parents Magazine. We like that they don't include fountain drinks as a choice for the kids' menu. We also love their "Kids Pick Four" menu option, where kids can choose four options from a list that includes a boiled egg, cheese slices and lots of fruits and vegetables. They can then choose hummus or ranch dressing to dip it in. It is perfect for picky eaters, gluten-free kids and kids who stick to vegetarian or vegan diets.
If your goal is simply to fill your family up with as much as you can, as quickly as you can, you can't beat Golden Corral. Since they only allow one free kid's meal per paying adult, you'll pay more than at Denny's, unless you have children age 3 or under. But if you have kids up to age 12 who love to eat and can't seem to get full, a buffet may be the way to go. There is definitely something for everyone at Golden Corral, including different kinds of meat, pizza, mashed potatoes and salad. Plus, although you'll have to pay extra for drinks, the price of the buffet does include all the dessert you can eat.
Going out to eat together is a great family activity. So, wherever you go, be sure to enjoy your quality time together!