Why Joe’s Real BBQ Gives Away 6,000 Free Meals in One Day

Like many folks getting into the restaurant business, Tad made a switch after spending many years in a different field. He was in corporate communications at American Airlines for 17 years prior to helping start Joe’s Real BBQ. When we interviewed him for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Tad talked about unraveling his corporate mindset, the dilemma of debt, the value of technology and how to retain great people. And here’s what he had to say about why Joe’s opens its doors one day every year to serve free meals to anybody who comes in…


We have an annual Customer Appreciation Day, when we open our doors and serve as many people as we can for free. We streamline the menu, offer canned sodas instead of fountain drinks to keep things moving along, and have served more than 6,000 free meals during the day of the promotion. Free Days around here usually mean someone is getting a free meal every six seconds we are open. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch.

We do this to thank our loyal customers for their patronage, and at the same time attract new customers. The buzz created by this annual event is pretty overwhelming. We’ve had years when every TV news channel in town picked up the story, as well as radio stations, blogs, and the social media crowd. Obviously feeding 6,000+ people isn’t cheap, but we think the investment pays off pretty quickly. It doesn’t take many converted first-timers for this approach to pay off.


Now that’s an unconventional way to spend most of your marketing budget. But of course it’s people who ignore conventional wisdom that wind up spearheading the best new ideas!

The Schedulefly Crew