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Military: Free Applebee’s Tonight… Maybe…

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UPDATE: I want to take a minute and thank Patrick Lenow, Executive Director, Communications of DineEquity, Inc. (parent company of Applebee's), for commenting and setting the record straight about this promotion being a trial. This post probably reflected some portion of my feeling that the sour grapes of seeing one city having 3 restaurants to choose from and my region having no option in a 250 mile radius. The other part of it was seeing the excitement generated by an e-mail chain forwarded around an the office where no one could take advantage of it.

In honor of Veteran's Day, Applebee's is giving back to military active duty and veterans. Tonight you can go to Applebee's and pick up a House Sirloin, hearty Riblet Basket, Fiesta Lime Chicken®, a Quesadilla Burger or Oriental Chicken Salad with sides for free.

Mike Archer, President, Applebee's Services, Inc. said, "It's an honor to host an event that helps the neighborhood come together and say thanks to our veterans and active servicemen and women."

So why do I have the word "maybe" in the title?

Applebee's is having this promotion in select locations only. There are 164 locations, but only about 12 states are represented and more than half of the participating restaurants are in Virginia or Wisconsin. My entire state of California has one participating restaurant... about 300 miles away from where I live. However, if you live in Yuma, Arizona you can take your pick of three participating Applebee's (the only ones in the state).

I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this promotion seems a little crazy. Is Applebee's saying that some neighborhoods are not worth getting people together? Are they saying that it's only worth honoring some of the military? This promotion is getting spread like wildfire through email. I bet thousands of families miss the fine print and show up at their Applebee's only to find out that their location isn't participating. I'm betting some of the families will end up eating there because they promised it to their children and families. I'm pretty sure it's not Applebee's plan, but I wonder if they make as much on these new customers to offset the free food they are giving away.

I just hope it doesn't backfire on them, because if I had gone to my local one and found that they weren't participating, I'd be a pretty upset customer.

(Let me head off one comment right away... I realize that Applebee's is a franchise and each one may be owned by individual people. Each one can run their business how they like. That doesn't make the end result any better. If Applebee's can get every restaurant to agree on their 2 for $20 deal, they should be able to pull this off for one night.)

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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9 Responses to “Military: Free Applebee’s Tonight… Maybe…”

  1. Traciatim says:

    “Is Applebee’s saying that some neighborhoods are not worth getting people together? Are they saying that it’s only worth honoring some of the military?”

    No, they are saying their stores are independently owned and operated and participation is up to the individual owners . . . that’s what it looks like to me. Complain to the owners, not Applebees.

  2. Lazy Man says:

    I tried to head off that comment right away. They shouldn’t have made participation up to the individual owners in the same way that they get every store to agree to agree on the 2 for $20 pricing model.

    Also if you are going to handle it this way, make sure it’s abundantly clear – not a “click to see participating stores” in the small letters at the end. I’ve seen the e-mail chains that are going around now, and there are going to be thousands and thousands of people showing up disappointed because the fine print was hidden.

  3. Larry says:

    In this situation they should have placed more emphasis on visiting thier website to find a participating location.

    But on the otherhand it should have been looked into a bit more by the patrons since as they say “if it sounds too good to be true, it must be!”

    I suspect that we will see a story on Consumerist about this soon enough, haha


  4. Aya @ Thrive says:

    I wonder if this will hit Applebee’s hard, or at least their marketing team because this doesn’t seem to be an effective strategy from the looks of it. I feel like not many people would go as far to read that fine print and they would just be disappointed and puzzled by the limited number of participating stores. So much for trying to look like they’re offering a good deal.

  5. Patrick says:

    Yeah, franchising can be difficult that way… some of the freebies offered for voting were only at select locations and it caused a problem for a lot of places.

    There are other veteran’s day freebies and discounts as well, so maybe you can take advantage of those. Check out these offers: Veteran’s Day Free Meals and Discounts and Freebies For Veterans.

  6. John says:

    This is not a franchise vs. corporate store issue. It is a corporate decision that is stated on the web site: “We are starting on a small scale to ensure we can best understand how to staff and service these important guests.” said Mike Archer, President, Applebee’s Services, Inc.”

  7. Lazy Man says:

    John, I’m not sure how much sense that makes though. I mean starting small is one thing, but if you are going to do it, you should make it well known in the offer that it’s X% of Applebee’s nationwide, so people get the idea that it’s not everyone and they should check the list.

    They are surely testing that one city in Arizona and Wisconsin terribly thoroughly while ignoring about 250 mile radius around Northern California, all of Texas, and all of New England, etc…

  8. Patrick Lenow says:

    Applebee’s is testing this promotion. Like most promotions we consider for national rollout, we test in limited locations first. I am sure you can imagine the logistics of something like this. We need to understand demand on a small scale, amount of food necessary, labor necessary, etc.

    The worst thing that could happen is to invite the military in and then run out of food, or not have enough servers available. Simply put, this is a year one test and a promotion that will be considered on a national basis in future years.

    Thanks for the opportunity to explain.

    Patrick Lenow
    Executive Director, Communications
    DineEquity, Inc. (parent company of Applebee’s)

  9. Dave says:

    I just called my local Applebees and the National Headquarters to express my displeasure with this promotion. As mentionedin an earlier comment, the fine print was so fine that you had to work to find out this wasn’t occuring in your area (in fact in almost no areas near major military bases). I was going to take my entire family to Applebees to celebrate their “honoring” veterans, but now, we not only won’t go today–we’ll never go there again.

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