On Tuesday, February 9th, I visited Denny's in Redwood City and had a Grand Slam breakfast on the house. This was courtesy of Denny's as part of the national restaurant chain's free Grand Slam promotion. This has become an annual post-Super Bowl event the last few years. (It was publicized in a commercial during the Superbowl.) Stories in the news media reported lines around the block at some locations nationwide.
I had gone under the justification that I was doing research on the economic condition of Silicon Valley. The fact that a signifcant number of people have the time, inclination, and lack of self-consciousness to stand in line for as much as an hour to take advantage of a FREE meal consisting of bacon, sausage, eggs, and pancakes between 6 AM and 2 PM on a Tuesday possibly indicates several things:
1) there are many unemployed people in Silicon Valley
2) there are many starving entrepeneurs running startups in Silicon Valley
3) there are many people in Silicon Valley who will go out of their way to get FREE food
4) this is further validation of the widely-disseminated thesis of Wired magazine's editor, Chris Anderson, that "FREE" has gained traction as an entitlement in the Digital Age (though he was mainly referring to FREE content on the Internet -- but FREE seems to have a slippery slope....look at all the people showing up at FREE meetup events that offer good content and FREE food, while meetups that charge are usually sparsely attended)
5) the best things in life are FREE; and an okay meal that is normally priced at $5.99 plus tax has limited demand but is suddenly very popular when it's FREE
6) elasticity of demand is infinite when FREE is the price
7) Denny's CMO has more clout than the CFO
The wait at the Denny's in Redwood City was actually quite reasonable -- less than 10 minutes. I was there at about 8:30 AM. I was done by 8:55 AM. I saw a lot of high school kids there who could have been playing hooky just to take advantage of the FREE Grand Slam breakfast. FREE food won out over FREE education. I don't know if this annecdotal observation of a small sampling of high school kids can be a fair representation of the values of the next generation of young people in America. If so, things don't very good. Maybe I was wrong,though; maybe they had a FREE period.
Does FREE as a business model work?
I don't know, but this meetup will always be FREE to attend.