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You've probably all read your fair share of articles on how to trim back the cost of dining out using coupons - showing up for the early bird special - bypassing the Boston cream pie and bringing your own bottle of wine. But when all is said and done, nothing beats a free meal. Think it is impossible, read these 5 ways to fill your stomach with free restaurant food.
Mystery shopping started in the retail industry as a way of giving national chains feedback on the quality of the service at their branch stores. But restaurants also need the same sort of feedback on the quality of the food and service and cleanliness of their facilities. The best way to get this kind of gig is to approach a restaurant chain that you like and inquire about whether it has a mystery program. We fell into mystery shopping by accident, the result of a bad service experience. Although we didn't get paid to dine, we did get several large dollar gift certificates that fed us plenty in exchange for giving back a ten minute evaluation. Some of the national chains will advertise in classifieds and you might get two free meals a month and get paid a little bit of money. Great if you like the restaurant.
Beware of scams. There is a good resource at the FTC's website that gives you the ins-and-outs of mystery shopping and what to be wary of. As a general rule, anyone who solicits you in exchange for money is probably trying to scam you.
Become a Food Critic:
In the age of Yelp, food critics aren't the end-all and be-all that they used to be but they still get nice perks. For one, their food should be paid for by their newspaper or magazine. Although food critics are not supposed to accept free meals, it happens all the time. Even when a restaurant lets a critic pay for a meal, it usually is heavily discounted. We were fortunate to be a first hand witness to this in a five star eating establishment in Los Angeles where a food critic got the royal treatment and only paid the tip. So write a few restaurant reviews for your local paper, print a business card that identifies you as food critic and see what happens next time you show up at your favorite dining establishment.
Work: Load Up on Free Meals
You don't have to work for Google to score a free meal from your employer. Many businesses offer free meals for those who work late, work through lunch or just do a great job. Even if you aren't a road warrior, you can take advantage of some of these perks. If you are working late and earning overtime, you can score twice. Time and a half for the hours worked and a free meal which might be worth as much as another 45 minutes of working (remember, if you have to buy that meal on your dime, it is after taxes).