Grab Your Significant Other And Share Some Of These Valentine’s Day Specials And Meal Deals

People love to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day, and that means restaurants are competing for your business. If what you and your significant other share is a love of frugality, the holiday is a fine time to find discounts and deals on meals out. Or heart-shaped pizzas.

Free Food With a Catch

Auntie Anne’s: Buy one, get one free heart-shaped pretzels (see below) on Feb. 14 as long as you’re a member of its Pretzel Perks rewards program. You need to have already downloaded the app and joined the program before Feb. 12.

Mimi’s: Get a free entrée on your next visit after leaving a note for someone you love on the chain’s Facebook page. There’s also a deal where couples can get a three-course meal for free if they get engaged at Mimi’s on Valentine’s Day, if they have the ring on hand. Couples who get engaged at Mimi’s restaurants on the holiday can post a photo on the chain’s Facebook page to enter to win a $500 gift card to the restaurant, or anyone can enter the drawing by following the instructions on the contest page.

Qdoba: The “Qdoba For a Kiss” promotion is essentially a buy one, get one promotion where you get the freebie if you smooch a loved one. Or a stranger. Or yourself, presumably, if you’re eating two burritos.

Schlotsky’s: The chain will give away 100,000 free bottles of hot sauce at its restaurants while supplies last. (Warning: auto-play video at that link.) Not all locations are participating, so check before you go.

Shoney’s: Customers who get the “all you care to eat” Food Bar will get free hot fudge cake. The Valentine’s Day version of the bar costs $24.99 per couple, and $12.99 for singles.

Holiday-Themed Stunt Food

Auntie Anne’s: They’re calling these “heart-shaped” pretzels, but they just look like slightly narrower pretzels than normal to us. They’ll only be available on Feb. 14.

Dunkin’ Donuts: They have heart-shaped donuts, as well as an Instagram-based contest where people are encouraged to share their love stories that involve Dunkin’ Donuts, and we are fairly certain they have to describe the love between two people, not a person and a donut.

Papa John’s, Papa Murphy’s, Pizza Hut, and Valentino’s: All of these chains are reportedly offering heart-shaped pizzas this year; check with your local restaurant to make sure they’re taking part first. Local pizzerias or your favorite regional chains might be taking part as well, but prepare for disappointment.

What we’re saying is that maybe you shouldn’t get your hopes up too much if you order one of these.

If you lived in Israel, you and your sweetheart could enjoy a special Burger King Adult Meal promotion, which includes two Whoppers, two fries, two beers, and what BK refers to as “A romantic ADULT TOY.”

If you know of another holiday deal at a national or regional chain that we left out, please let us know!

Why Are So Many Restaurant Chains Closing Locations, Filing For Bankruptcy?

Bob Evan’s, Old Country Buffet, Cosi, Ruby Tuesday, Logan’s Roadhouse: these are just a few of the large restaurant chains that have closed locations and/or filed for bankruptcy protection in 2016 alone. These eateries generally have two factors working in their favor: name recognition and stores in high-traffic areas. So why are they doing so poorly?

Over-saturation, new fast-casual entrants, and customers’ desire to just eat at home have something to do with it, the Wall Street Journal reports, suggesting that the already announced closures are likely just the beginning of what could be a major restaurant industry shakeup.

Having a variety of food options at your disposal is great for hungry consumers, but you eventually get to the point where there aren’t enough people eating out to support all of those restaurants.

Analysts with NPD Group have charted the growth and retraction of this industry, saying that the number of restaurants in the U.S. grew by 7.3% between 2006 and 2014, peaking at more than 638,000. Since then, the trend has reversed, with a slight decline in restaurants to 624,000. Analysts say many of the closed stores come from independent restaurant chains.

The WSJ reports that the closures have often coincided with younger consumers choosing not to eat out. For example, in the past 10 years, customers aged 18 to 35 have scaled back on their visits, making fewer than 50 trips to restaurants each year.

Additionally, these customers have turned to more fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, and others. Still, this variety of eatery hasn’t been saved from closures and financial issues.

Boston-based Cosi, which dabbles in sandwiches, salads, and breakfast fare, recently filed for bankruptcy, announcing the closure of 29 locations.

The WSJ suggests that chains like Cosi are now facing the consequences of opening too many stores, too fast in order to take advantage of customers desire for fresher food options.

Another factor that has led to closures includes debt burdens held by the chains like Logan’s Roadhouse and Fox & The Hound and Champs operator Last Call.

According to chapter 11 filings for Last Call, the company had $75 million in first lien debt owed to Anteres Capital. When the company filed for bankruptcy in 2013, it had $117 million in debts.

As part of Logan’s Roadhouse’s bankruptcy filing, the company said it would restructure its business — closing 18 locations — reducing $546 million in debt by $300 million.

Despite the hundreds of restaurants that have closed so far this year, analysts tell the WSJ that more are likely to come, it just might take a little time.

“I think it’s going to be five to 10 years for the shakeout to complete,” Josh Benn, managing director at corporate-finance advisory firm Duff & Phelps Corp., tells the WSJ, suggesting that the rate of closures will slow as landlords and property owners try to reduce unexpected and costly vacancies.

Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S.

Consulting Yelp before deciding on dinner plans is standard operating procedure these days. Even if we don’t always trust the reviews, it’s hard to pass up a spot with four and a half stars and hundreds of reviews. Other places hard to pass up? Every one on this list. Yelp went through their numbers and found the best of the best in the United States, and the group of 100 includes everything from the fine dining at The French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park to the messy chow down at Franklin Barbecue and Bogart’s Smokehouse. Here’s a look at the Top 10:

  1. Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Burbank, CA) – Link
  2. Cheese Board Pizza (Berkeley, CA) – Link
  3. Paseo (Seattle, WA) – Link
  4. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, KS) – Link
  5. TKB Bakery & Deli (Indio, CA) – Link
  6. Gary Danko (San Francisco, CA) – Link
  7. The Morrison (Los Angeles, CA) – Link
  8. Mama D’s Italian Kitchen (Newport Beach, CA) – Link
  9. Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX) – Link
  10. Marukame Udon (Honolulu, TX) – Link

See the rest of the list here.

Chick-fil-A’s “Mom’s Valet” Aims To Take The Stress Out Of Dining With Children

A simple trip for fast food can become anxiety-inducing when you throw a carful of excited kids into the mix. In an attempt to quell this chaos, Chick fil-A is testing a new service dubbed “Mom’s Valet.”

The service, Business Insider reports, enables parents with children to order their meals via the drive-thru, then come inside with their brood to eat.

Once an order is placed and paid for at the drive-thru, a Chick-fil-A employee will prepare a table for them and bring their order to them.

David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of menu strategy and development, tells Business Insider that the idea for the service came about after employees noticed how hectic the ordering process could be for families.

The service, which will be advertised on participating restaurants’ drive-thru signs, is part of the company’s focus on “taking the stress out,” and making the dining experience more relaxing for all customers.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants offers a list of the planet’s highest culinary talents, and for 2015 we’re privy to a new ranking celebrating the world’s finest gastronomic achievements. With a varied range of geographic locations, this year’s list brings us around the world with numerous continents and a wide range of countries represented. Created from the votes of The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, the voters comprise of over 1,000 of the most influential individuals in the worldwide culinary scene, such as chefs, restaurateurs, food critics, writers and highly regarded “gastronomes.” Spain takes the cake this year, with seven restaurants represented in the top 50, along with the number 1 spot awarded to the reputable El Celler de Can Roca, which also took the top spot in 2013. Other notable culinary regions represented includes France, with five entries, as well as the United States, with six restaurants on the list in addition to one new entry. Head over to The World’s Best Restaurants to see the entire list of the world’s top culinary hotspots.

1. El Cellar De Can Roca – Girona, Spain
2. Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy
3. Noma – Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Central – Lima, Peru
5. Eleven Madison Park – New York City, United States
6, Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
7. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – London, United Kingdom
8. Narisawa – Tokyo, Japan
9. D.O.M. – Sao Paolo, Brazil
10. Gaggan – Bangkok, Thailand

Google Wants You to Buy Big Macs With Your Face

Google may have been the first big tech company to push NFC payments, but it was Apple Pay that got the public excited about buying things with your smartphone. At a Google I/O session for Android Pay, the search giant announced that it was partnering with McDonalds and Papa John’s Pizza to launch Hands Free, a payment system that looks suspiciously like the Pay with Square app (later called Square Wallet and discontinued). Customers walk in to a store and say, “I’d like to pay with Google,” and the cashier will see a photo of the customer and their name on their point-of-sale system. The service is initially launching in San Francisco in the coming months and those interested can sign up for the beta here. Details about the geofencing payment service are sparse, but it should use cards stored in the upcoming Android Pay.

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Starbucks’ First Express Format Store Streamlines the Cafe Experience

Opening on Wall Street is Starbucks‘ first express format store, which does away with extraneous spaces for sitting down and working or socializing, instead boiling down the Starbucks experience down to its most espresso-like form: you, the cashier, and the coffee. Only a miniscule 538 square feet, the new space was designed by the Starbucks in-house design team, with the interior clad in long wooden slats that guide you towards the cashier and kitchen at the back of the store, but not before being greeted by a staff member who first takes your order with a tablet device. Designed to have customers in and out of the store in the most efficient manner possible whilst maintaining an experience of high design, the store will act as a pilot project for four more express format stores slated to be opened in New York City within this year.

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Local Restaurants Scare Up Spooktacular Halloween Deals

No tricks! But you’re in for a big treat this Halloween as restaurant chains serve up spooktacular savings and devilish deals. We’ve scared up a spellbinding selection of those Halloween deals below. Unless otherwise noted, all deals are for Friday, October 31. Keep in mind that participation may vary by location. Check with your local restaurant for further details.

Baja Fresh – Kids in costume get a free meal with purchase of any adult entree and this coupon. October 27th through 31st only.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s – Kids in costume receive one free meal per purchase of any adult entree

Bellagios Pizza – Place your order for Halloween (10/31/14) at least 24 hours in advance and get 10% off of your order.

Boston Market – Free Kids Meal with purchase of any Individual Meal with this coupon.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill – Free Kids Meal October 31st through November 2nd with purchase of any adult entree with this coupon. Limit 2 free Kids Meals per coupon, per visit.

Chevys Fresh Mex – Kids eat free all week. $5 to go burritos all day on Halloweeen.

Chipotle Mexican Grill – Visit any Chipotle restaurant dressed in costume between 5 p.m. and closing on October 31, and purchase a burrito, burrito bowl, tacos, salad or kids meal for only $3.

HomeTown Buffet – Bring your little ghosts and goblins to any of the 324 restaurants on Halloween night (Friday, October 31, 2014), and all costumed characters 11 years old and younger will enjoy a free meal. The free dinner offer is available from 5 to 8 p.m. on October 31.

IHOP – Now through October 31st, kids 12 and under can get a free “Scary Face” pancake and make it into as scary – or funny – a face as they want. One per child. Dine-in only.

Krispy Kreme – On October 31st, come in in your costume and get one free boo-tiful doughnut of your choice (including the Ghostbusters doughnuts) at any participating Krispy Kreme US and Canadian location.

Lone Star Steakhouse – Little Goblins Eat Free all day October 31st. Get one free Littles’ meal with each regularly priced adult entree purchased.

Morton’s The Steakhouse – Three courses for $35 at participating locations on October 31st.

Old Country Buffet – Bring your little ghosts and goblins to any of the 324 restaurants on Halloween night (Friday, October 31, 2014), and all costumed characters 11 years old and younger will enjoy a free meal. The free dinner offer is available from 5 to 8 p.m. on October 31.

Olive Garden – Free kids meal with adult entree purchase and this coupon.

Outback Steakhouse – Treat your little ghouls, goblins and ghosts to a free kids meal with the purchase of any adult entree. No coupon necessary. Limit two free kids meals per visit.

Ryan’s – Bring your little ghosts and goblins to any of the 324 restaurants on Halloween night (Friday, October 31, 2014), and all costumed characters 11 years old and younger will enjoy a free meal. The free dinner offer is available from 5 to 8 p.m. on October 31.

Sbarro – Kids eat free on October 31st and during Mall Halloween Festivities. Bring your kids in costume and they will receive one free pizza slice (cheese or pepperoni) with the purchase of any entree.

Sonic Drive-In – 50¢ corn dogs all day. Offer is good for one day only while supplies last.

Souper Salad – Feed your little monster for free Monday, October 27th to Friday, October 31st. Kids eat for 99¢ or free with costume. Adult buffet purchase required for each free or 99¢ kid’s meal. Kids 10 and under. Not valid in Georgetown, Lubbock and Pasadena.

Stevi B’s Pizza Buffet – Kids under 10 in Halloween costumes can eat for 99¢ on Halloween. Buffet only.

Texas Corral Grill & Saloon – Free kids entree with purchase of adult entree with this coupon.

Texas Steakhouse & Saloon – Kids in costume eat free through October 31st with purchase of adult entree. Dine-in only.

Tubby’s Grilled Submarines – Kids can color this sheet and bring in to a Tubby’s for a free small order of french fries with any sub purchase. Valid on regular prices subs only, not on $5 deli subs.

UNO Pizzeria & Grill – Halloween Party, Tuesday, October 28th, 4-7 pm. Kids eat free with purchase of an adult entree. Pumpkin decorating, coloring sheets, goody bags and more at participating locations.