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Published: Friday, 11/9/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Local sites of restaurants, retailers to give gifts, discounts to those who served

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Call it free grub for grunts.

A number of restaurant chains and other businesses are offering free meals and other discounts to veterans and active-duty military members over the Veterans Day weekend as a thank-you for their service.

Among the chains offering free meals to vets is Columbus-based Max & Erma’s.

Tedd Hill, a regional manager who oversees Max & Erma’s Perrysburg, Maumee, and Sylvania locations, said the promotion is a nod to the company’s founder, Max Visocnik, who served during World War II.

“Max was in the army; he was a tanker,” Mr. Hill said. “Every one of our restaurants has a few pictures of him in his dress uniform or with his tank. It’s part of our history and we employ a lot of veterans and we have a great connection there. We wanted to be sure we reached out and said thank-you.”

All day Sunday, veterans and active-duty personnel who show proof of service can get a free cup of tortilla soup or a caesar salad along with a cheeseburger and fries.

Bar Louie at Levis Commons in Perrysburg will give out a food item priced up to $11 to current and former military members on Sunday and Monday.

“It’s put on by our corporate office but I’m really glad to do it,” said Bill Dorman, general manager of the chain’s Perrysburg location.

This is the second year Bar Louie locations have had the promotion. Mr. Dorman said he expects to give out 20 to 30 meals but hopes to do more.

Several other major restaurant chains have similar offers. Applebee’s, Chili’s, and Hooters will give free meals on Sunday. Olive Garden, Golden Corral, TGI Friday’s, and Texas Roadhouse will offer free meals on Monday. The list is far from inclusive.

Jarrod Clabaugh, a spokesman for the Ohio Restaurant Association in Columbus, said Veterans Day promotions have increased significantly in the last five years.

“We have definitely seen this trend increase across the state of Ohio and other parts of the country as well,” he said. “It used to be restaurant operators who came from the military or had family members in the military would practice promotions or offer free meals like this, but now we’re seeing it spread to larger chains and in more communities across the state.”

Mr. Clabaugh said the exposure grew as nationwide chains began participating. Many of the smaller, family restaurants have done it more quietly.

One early adopter of free meals on Veterans Day was Golden Corral, which has given veterans and military members a dinner on Veterans Day Monday since 2000.

This year, all the buffet chain’s locations will offera free meal Monday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The company said it gave out 375,000 free meals last year and has given 3.2 million over the last 11 years.

Restaurants aren’t alone in giving back on Veterans Day.

Jeff Riley, a Toledo firefighter who owns the Sylvania Super Wash car wash on Alexis Road, will give military car washes from noon to 6 p.m.

The Toledo area’s two Massage Envy locations will have a “Massages for Military” event and give hour-long massage sessions to military members and their spouses on Sunday.

Home Depot and Lowe’s will give 10 percent off all purchases to military veterans and active duty members who show proof of service. Cabela’s Outdoor Stores will give veterans and active duty military, as well as law enforcement, fire, and EMS personnel, their employee discount on Sunday and Monday.

B. J. Fischer, Director of Strategic Services for the FLS Group, a division of Thread Marketing Group of Toledo, said offering free meals or special discounts to veterans is a good example of what’s called “cause-related marketing.” Essentially, the good will generated by promotions extends well beyond the individual customers who benefit.

Mr. Fischer said supporting veterans is a cause most everyone can support.

“Even people who were against the wars we were in are not making the mistakes of the past of taking it out on the people who served. We’re supporting them. In a lot of ways it’s a no-risk cause.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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