Restaurants are saluting veterans and active-duty military personnel Thursday by offering free meals, treats and special discounts on Veterans Day to show appreciation for those who have sacrificed for the country.
Proof of service such as a military ID is typically required, and a few businesses will allow dressing in uniform as a form of identification. Discharge papers, VA cards and veteran organization membership cards also can be used to prove service at most businesses.
Veterans Day marks the date when Germany and the Allies signed a 1918 agreement to end World War I hostilities. The fighting ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was first recognized as Armistice Day in 1919.
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The majority of discounts are valid only on the federal holiday at participating locations nationwide, with most applying to veterans and active-duty military.
But some exclusions apply and offers can vary by location. Check with your closest location to confirm participation.
Dunkin’ Veterans Day deal: Free donut
Dunkin’ is giving veterans and active military a free donut of their choice Thursday at participating restaurants nationwide. No purchase is necessary and the freebie is available in-store only.
There’s a limit of one per guest while supplies last. According to the fine print, no ID is required.
IHOP Veterans Day: Free pancakes
IHOP is giving away free pancakes Thursday to all military veterans with a choice of two limited-time menu items.
Veterans can choose to get free Red, White and Blue Pancakes or a Pancake Combo from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday when dining in. Military ID or proof of service is required.
Starbucks Veterans Day: Free coffee
Starbucks will offer its annual Veterans Day special Thursday for veterans, military service members and military spouses. They can get a free tall 12-ounce hot brewed coffee at participating U.S. locations.
The promotion is for café and drive-thru orders and is limited to one per customer.
The coffee giant says it will donate 25 cents for every cup of hot brewed coffee sold nationwide Thursday to military nonprofits Team Red, White & Blue and Headstrong to support military communities’ mental health and the wellbeing of military communities.
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Krispy Kreme Veterans Day deal: Free donut and coffee
Krispy Kreme has two freebies for veterans Thursday. They can get a free doughnut of their choice and a free small brewed coffee, iced or hot.
There’s a limit of one and this promotion is available in shops and the drive-thru.
Not a veteran? It’s still possible to get a freebie. With a valid COVID-19 vaccination card, get a free glazed doughnut through Dec. 31 for showing the card.
Wawa: Free coffee for Veterans Day
Wawa’s annual Veterans Day freebie is for veterans, active military members and their families Thursday: A free hot coffee in any size.
The convenience store chain has more than 940 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington DC.
Every Tuesday through the end of the year, Wawa also is giving away free coffee to its rewards members. New members can sign up at Wawarewards.com.
More Veterans Day free coffee for vets, active military
- Biggby Coffee: Free 16-ounce beverage of choice for all active and retired military personnel with ID.
- Caribou Coffee: Free small cup of hot brewed coffee for veterans, active military members and their spouses Thursday. To get the deal, ask when ordering.
- Casey’s General Store: All service members, past and present, get a free cup of coffee Thursday. No proof of service is required and Casey’s told USA TODAY this deal will be given on the honor system.
- EG America: Free coffee any size (hot or iced) for active military and veterans at all locations, including Cumberland Farms, Tom Thumb, Turkey Hill, Quik Stop, Kwik Stop, Minit Mart, Certified Oil, Fastrac Café and Loaf N Jug. No purchase is necessary.
- PJ’s Coffee: Free 12-ounce cold brew or hot drip coffee Thursday.
- Scooter’s Coffee: Free hot, iced or blended drink for veterans Thursday.
Denny’s Veterans Day 2021: Free Grand Slam
Denny’s Veterans Day offer is from 5 a.m. to noon Thursday. Active and inactive military personnel can get a free “Build Your Own Grand Slam” meal for dine-in only with a valid military ID or DD 214.
Hours can vary. Denny’s also said it will have its second annual “Heroes Tour” to deliver free, hot meals to veterans and active military through its Mobile Relief Diner. Dates and locations will be announced at a later date.
Applebee’s: Free meals for Veterans Day
For the 14th year, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar is giving active military, veterans, Reserves and National Guard a free meal Thursday from a special menu with proof of military service. This offer is dine-in only at more than 1,500 restaurants nationwide and hours vary by location.
The chain said in a news release that it will also give “these special guests” a $5 bounce back card to redeem for dine-in, To Go or delivery within three weeks.
According to the promotion’s fine print, beverage and gratuity are not included and there’s a limit of one meal per U.S. veteran or active duty military.
Wendy’s: Free breakfast for Veterans Day
Wendy’s is offering veterans and active-duty military a free breakfast combo from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, but hours can vary by location.
A valid military ID or a Veterans Advantage card is required. The offer can be redeemed in restaurants or at the drive-thru.
Sheetz Veterans Day deals: Free sub, drink and car wash
Sheetz has a few Veterans Day deals for veterans and active-duty military personnel Thursday. They can get a free half turkey or ham sub and a regular-size fountain drink at any of the chain’s 633 locations with military ID or proof of service.
Sheetz stores that have car washes will also provide a free car wash to veterans and active-duty military.
Do Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A have Veterans Day deals?
Some of the nation’s largest chains told USA TODAY that they don’t have nationwide deals planned for Veterans Day. However, some Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s locations might have discounts.
Taco Bell told USA TODAY that customers should call local restaurants to ask if they have a deal. Chick-fil-A also said some operators may have specials. In past years, participating McDonald’s in Ohio are among the restaurants that offered veterans a free meal on the holiday.
Chipotle, Burger King and Subway are also among major chains that did not share nationwide Veterans Day deals with USA TODAY.
More Veterans Day free food and deals
The following offers are available Thursday unless otherwise noted. Most are for dine-in only and some require a mobile app. Almost all require proof of military service and are while supplies last.
Arby’s RBA locations: Free classic roast beef sandwich for veterans and active-duty military at Arby’s largest franchisee, RB American (RBA), a subsidiary of Flynn Restaurant Group. Find locations at Rbamerican.com.
Au Bon Pain: Free small cup of soup of choice for veterans and active-duty military.
Bertucci’s: Free entrée for veterans and active-duty U.S. military members. Dine-in only.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse: Free meal from a select menu and a Dr Pepper beverage to all current and former military personnel.
Bob Evans: Free meal from a special menu.
Bonefish Grill: Ongoing 10% discount daily for service members, veterans and first responders.
Buffalo Wild Wings: Free order of 10 boneless wings and fries, dine-in or takeout, for past and present armed service members.
California Pizza Kitchen: Free meal and drink from a special menu for dine-in only for veterans. Plus, veterans who dine-in Thursday will receive a BOGO offer to redeem Nov. 12-20.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill: Ongoing 10% discount daily for service members, veterans and first responders.
Chicken Salad Chick: Free Chick Special and drink for veterans and active-duty.
Chili’s Grill & Bar: Free meal from a special menu for veterans and active military.
Cicis Pizza: Free adult buffet for veterans.
Cotton Patch Cafe: Free Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken Fried Chicken with proof of military service at all locations.
Cracker Barrel: Free slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake for veterans Thursday with a purchase in-store or online. For online orders, use promo code VETSDAY21.
D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches: 50% off the entire order Thursday for retired and active military for dine-in and carry-out orders.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: Free Pulled Pork Sandwich for veterans with the code VETFREE for in-store and online orders for carryout and pickup.
Einstein Bros. Bagels: Free hot or iced coffee of any size with purchase for veterans. License stores inside colleges, hospitals, airports and hotels are excluded.
Famous Dave’s: Free Lunch Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich with side for active, inactive and retired military personnel.
Farmer Boys: Free Big Cheese for active, former or retired military members.
Fazoli’s: Free regular spaghetti with meat or marinara on Wednesday and Thursday.
Fogo de Chão: 50% off meals for veterans and active-duty personnel plus 10% off for up to three guests’ meals.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers: Free combo meal cards for veterans and active-duty military who visit Freddy’s Thursday. The cards are good through Nov. 30 and no purchase is “necessary to receive or redeem the card,” the chain said.
Friendly’s: Free cheeseburger, fries and soft drink “to those who have honorably served.”
Golden Chick: Ongoing 10% discount for veterans and active-duty military with ID.
Golden Corral: Free dinner buffets and drinks from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday for “active duty, military personnel, retirees, National Guard, reserves and veterans of all branches of service.”
Graeter’s Ice Cream: Free sundae for veterans and those currently serving in the U.S. military.
Hard Rock Cafe: Free original Legendary Steak Burger for active or retired military members. Military members can also use the chain’s 15% off military discount on other items.
Hooters: Free meal from a special menu with proof of service and purchase of a drink for dining in.
Huddle House: Free MVP Breakfast Platter for active-duty military members and veterans.
Insomnia Cookies: Free six-pack of cookies for active military and veterans with a purchase.
Juice It Up!: Free 20-ounce classic smoothie for veterans and active-duty military.
Kolache Factory: Free kolache and a cup of coffee for veterans and active military .
Ledo Pizza: Active military and veterans get $5 off orders more than $20 with a valid ID.
Little Caesars: Free lunch combo between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday for veterans and active military members.
Logan’s Roadhouse: Free American Roadhouse meal between 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday.
Love’s Travel Stops: With the purchase of one roller grill item, veterans and active-duty military get an additional roller grill item along with a free fountain drink or hot coffee.
Metro Diner: 50% off for active and retired military with valid military ID and 10% off year-round.
Nekter Juice Bar: Free 16-ounce Fresh Juice or Superfood Smoothie.
Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub: Free meal from a special Veterans Day menu with the purchase of another meal and proof of service from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.
O’Charley’s Restaurant + Bar: Free meal from special menu for veterans and active-duty personnel.
Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom: Free starter up to $11.99 with the purchase of an entrée for veterans.
On The Border: Free Pick 2 Combo for veterans.
Papa Gino’s: 50% off whole pizzas for dine-in and carry-out orders for retired and active military. Not valid for online orders.
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery: Free Magnificent Seven breakfast meal for active-duty military members and veterans.
Pilot Flying J: All active-duty and retired military members can get a $10 free meal credit at more than 750 participating U.S. travel centers that include Pilot, Flying J and One9 Fuel Network centers. To get this deal, veterans need to be verified with ID.me in the myRewards PlusTM app.
Pollo Tropical: Free Quarter Chicken Meal with two side dishes for all veterans and active-duty military.
Qdoba Mexican Eats: 50% off any entrée in-store for active military and veterans.
Red Lobster: Free appetizer or dessert for veterans, active-duty military and reservists.
Red Robin: Through Nov. 14, Red Robin Military Royalty members get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger, available for dining in or to go. To get this deal, veterans and active military had to register for the loyalty program with a military designation by Nov. 1.
Ruby Tuesday: Free Garden Bar Entree for active military and veterans.
Schlotzsky’s: Free small drink and chips with entrée purchase for veterans and active-duty military. The first 50 to redeem the deal at participating locations will get a $5 off reward coupon to use for a future purchase.
Shoney’s: Free breakfast bar from open to 11 a.m. local time.
Smashburger: Free Single Classic for veterans.
Smoothie King: Free 20-ounce smoothie of choice for all veterans and active-duty military personnel.
Sonny’s BBQ: Free Pork Big Deal combo for veterans and active military when dining in or takeout.
Stewart’s Shops: The chain will have 50 cent ice cream cones for everyone Thursday.
Taco John’s: Free Small Beef Combo meal when veterans use the code VETERAN in the mobile app.
TGI Fridays: Free select meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Torchy’s Tacos: Free taco and non-alcoholic beverage for veterans for dine-in and pickup orders.
Twin Peaks: Free meal from a special menu when dining in for active and retired military.
WaBa Grill: The chain has a buy-one-get-one deal on all WaBa Bowls for veterans and active-duty military Thursday online and in-store.
Wienerschnitzel: Free Chili Dog, small fries and small Pepsi for veterans and active-duty military for showing U.S. military ID or wearing their uniform.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. For shopping news, tips and deals, join us on our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group.