Fast-food chains giving away free food isn’t anything new – especially at Chick-fil-A. The restaurant’s yearly Cow Appreciation Day is a tradition for many people who spend money creating a cow costume so they can get a free chicken meal. I don’t get it. I don’t get it when people line up at IHOP for free pancakes at or at Dunkin Donuts for a free donut on National Donut Day either.

Chick-fil-A seems to have a new gimmick going with this particular promotion, though. To get your free breakfast item (just one entrée per reservation is free – you’ll still have to pay for your beverage and any sides), you have to make a reservation at a local Chick-fil-A for a date between Sept. 9-14. I suppose the reservation system will make it seem like customers won’t have to stand in line so long, but it looks to me from their website that they’re accepting 100 reservations per hour at each participating location. I think there will be lines.

Let’s forget about the quality of the food that’s being given away for a moment — because honestly, they could be giving away organic oatmeal topped with fresh picked local blueberries and cream from a just-milked cow and I still wouldn’t get it.

Here’s what I don’t understand.

  • Who has the time to drive to a fast-food restaurant and then stand in line (that’s probably extra long) for a free item that usually costs less than $5?
  • How much money does that free item really cost once you factor in the other things you’ll inevitably buy, like a beverage and a side of hash browns?
  • Don’t people realize that these “free” promotions usually end up making a profit for restaurants because of all the other items people buy along with their free item? Last year on 7-Eleven’s free Slurpee Day, a company spokesperson admitted that sales of Slurpees on that day were expected to jump by as much as 40 percent because many people would want a larger size than offered.
So here’s my question for you if you if you’re prone to lining up for these free, fast-food promotions. What’s the appeal? What gets you so excited about something like a free chicken biscuit that you’ll brave the crowds, wait in line, and probably spend money? And, does the exclusivity of a reservation system make it even more appealing?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Chick-fil-A's free breakfast offer: What's the appeal?
Chick-fil-A is accepting limited reservations for customers to come in and get a free breakfast item. Does the exclusivity make you want to grab a time slot?