Veterans Day Free Meals FAQ

Who's eligible, when you can get the free meals, and more questions answered

New York City Celebrates Veterans Day With Annual Parade
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Every Veterans Day, thousands of restaurants around the country, from big chains like IHOP and Olive Garden to one-location diners, honor veterans and thank them for their service with a free meal. You can find a list of the Veterans Day free meals to see which restaurants are participating this year with free meals, discounts, and more.

Below, you'll find the answers to commonly-asked questions about free Veterans Day meals, so you can enjoy being honored and have a fantastic meal!

What Do I Need to Know About Free Meals on Veterans Day?

Definitely call the exact location you plan on visiting before you head out to the restaurant. With a simple phone call, you can make sure they're participating, what date and time they're giving out free meals, whether a purchase is required, and if you need to bring proof of service along with you.

Who's Eligible for a Free Meal on Veterans Day?

Eligibility is up to the restaurant. Veterans are always eligible, and most of the time, active duty military members are as well, and sometimes even direct family members. Be sure to check with the restaurant you'll be visiting for specific details.

When Are the Veterans Day Free Meals?

Most free meals are served on Veterans Day, which is observed annually on November 11. However, some are available the entire weekend around the 11th, or on another date entirely. For example, when Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, it's observed on the following Monday. Some restaurants decide to offer those free meals on not only the day of and on the recognition day, but also a day before, too, like on Saturday. Other places might give out free meal vouchers that must be redeemed by a certain date.

To be sure, just remember to call your location to verify the dates they are giving away free food.

What Time of Day Are the Veterans Day Free Meals?

It really varies from restaurant to restaurant. Some meals are only valid during lunch, during dinner, or for breakfast. Some of the offers last all day long. If you aren't sure, call where you're planning on going to see when the best time to come by is.

What Food Do You Get From Veterans Day Free Meals?

The food that's served to veterans depends entirely on the restaurant. Sometimes it will be your pick from anything on their regular menu, and other times it's anything up to a specific value (like $15), or it's any meal from a special "Veterans Day Menu" put together by the restaurant. You'll know the specifics when it's time to order, or if you call before you arrive.

Do All Locations Participate in the Veterans Day Free Meals?

No, and even within one company, it still can vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some locations will participate nationwide, and for others, it's up to individual owners.

Do I Need to Bring Proof of Service to Get My Veterans Day Free Meal?

This depends on which restaurant you're going to visit. Most of the time, they will require proof of service. Here are some of the common forms of proof they may ask for:

  • Military ID
  • U.S. Uniform Services Retired ID Card
  • Current Leave and Earnings Statement
  • Veterans Organization Card
  • Wearing your uniform
  • Picture of you in uniform

Calling ahead of time will confirm whether you need to bring something with you, and what, exactly, that is.

Can My Family Get a Free Meal, Too?

No, families are welcome to enjoy a meal with you, but they'll be charged for their meal. There are, on rare occasions, exceptions to this rule, but only if the restaurant has explicitly said so. Family members might get a small discount, but it's usually the case that only the veteran can take part in the free meal.

Is There a Purchase Required for the Veterans Day Free Meals?

Most of the free meals on Veterans Day are completely free, with no purchase required. Some restaurants do require a purchase, which can range anywhere from a drink to another entrée.

When in doubt, call your local restaurant to find out if there's a purchase required.

Do I Still Need to Tip My Server, Even Though My Meal Is Free?

You should still tip your server. They're working hard to serve you, and they depend on these tips to supplement their paycheck.

If you'd like to use a percentage to figure out how much you should tip, calculate that on the cost of the meal if you'd be ordering it on a regular day where you'd be charged. You can always ask for a menu to look up the price.

Are There Other Kinds of Freebies I Can Get on Veterans Day?

Yes! There are all kinds of freebies for veterans, including free haircuts, car washes, and even bed & breakfast lodging.

Can I Get Any Discounts on Veterans Day?

You can get discounts on Veterans Day, too. Some stores even offer discounts all year round for veterans, so be sure to check to see if you can be saving all year.