Enter a restaurant, say a few magic words and — presto! — free food and drinks will appear.
OK, so it’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much. First, you have to sign up for a free account on social networking site Twitter (if you haven’t already) and start following your favorite local and chain restaurants.
Plenty of restaurants and bars use their accounts to offer exclusive deals and coupons. The hottest new trend: code words. Say the right ones to your sever and you can score everything from free coffee and fries to half-priced drinks and meals.
This creative approach brings more people through the door and, ultimately, helps the restaurant’s bottom line. After all, when someone comes in for a free coffee drink or half-priced entree, chances are they’ll order something else.
Jennifer Simpson started tweeting to entice choco-philes to Coco-Luxe Boutique and Hot Chocolate Bar in San Francisco, which she manages. “Sometimes the response can be good, but it depends a lot on the timing [of the tweet],” she says. She’s found that weekday promotions get more response than those on the weekends when, presumably, more people are out enjoying restaurants than reviewing tweets about them. (Hint: if those promotions are limited on a first-come-first-served basis, you probably stand a better chance of scoring one on a weekend.)
That said, below we’ve listed 13 speakeasy dealers worth following.
Do you follow anyone on Twitter to score dining deals? Let us know in the comments!
1. Acapulco (seven locations in Minnesota)
Sample deal tweet: Visit us at the New Brighton Stockyard Days and use the code word “Señor” for chance to win free food for a year. (August 10)
Other tweets to watch for: Restaurant specials, like 75-cent taco night (that’s Monday, for the record).
2. Burger Lounge (five locations in and near San Diego, Calif.)
Sample deal tweet: It’s raining fries at Burger Lounge today! Just mention today’s Twitter code: “Fry Me” when you purchase your entree! (June 29)
Other tweets to watch for: Their chosen Twitter follower of the week gets a $20 gift card.
3. Carolina Ale House (13 locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida)
Sample deal tweet: FAN DAY!! 35 cent wings today! Use the Code word: FACEBOOK FAN DAY Share with your friends – post this in… (August 2)
Other tweets to watch for: The chain offers gift certificates, tickets to local events and other prizes for users who answer “Free Friday Giveaway” questions.
4. Coco-Luxe Confections
Sample deal tweet: has been on haight street for 2 years now, and to show our appreciation to all our lovely customers, we’re giving everyone a free truffle while supplies last! Just come in [and ask for the “Anniversary” truffle] (August 6)
Other tweets to watch for: Special chocolates, like the Highball Truffle for Father’s Day.
5. Coupa Cafe (Palo Alto, Stanford and Beverly Hills, Calif.)
Sample deal tweet: Last call for whisper word promo: first 25 customers to say “Guy Kawasaki” (@guykawasaki) will receive a free small chai tea! (August 13)
Other tweets to watch for: Check for a new whisper word and deal daily to get free drinks or other menu items.
6. Havana Sol (Vallejo, Calif.)
Sample tweet deal: This Thursday, half off your first round of drinks, only with the password “Chris”. Come and enjoy the great drinks like Peach Sangria! (July 28)
Other tweets to watch for: Daily specials like $4.50 Patron shots and half-priced appetizers.
7. LoLo Restaurant (North Vancouver, British Columbia)
Sample deal tweet: Lunch only! Half off your food bill for first five mentions of code word: Love Boat! (August 12)
Other tweets to watch for: Restaurant specials, like the new selection of $22-bottle wines on Mondays.
8. MaRKeT Restaurants (Tucson, Ariz.)
Sample deal tweet: RT! It’s Speakeasy Sunday! Say “Amiable” at ZONA 78 today to your server and get Happy Hour pricing ALL DAY! #Tucson (August 15)
Other tweets to watch for: Each of the four restaurants has a code word on “Speakeasy Sundays.” They also post specials like $35 wine and tapas combos.
9. Petit Bois Cafe (Pascagoula, Miss.)
Sample deal tweet: 2nites secret code word is sardine. Saying this secret code word to your waitress will get you 1/2 off the second [dinner entree with purchase of the first dinner entree. You can order from the dinner menu or the special board. You may also place togo orders. Don’t for get all you can eat flounder or shrimp in Gautier!] (August 12)
Other tweets to watch for: Daily specials, as well as winner announcements for the weekly free lunch drawing.
10. RA Sushi (25 locations in nine states)
Sample deal tweet: SO sorry we are a day or two late posting the new menu item of the week! Whisper “Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings” to [your server at RA Sushi in Tustin and receive a complimentary order of Edamame. See you in the RA] (August 11)
Other tweets to watch for: Answer “Name that menu item” trivia question for a chance to win restauarant gift cards.
11. RnR Restaurant and Bar (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Sample deal tweet: Hello all RnR fans!!!! Weekend is almost here by why not start a day early Come by tonight and say the CODEWORD [“Running Rampant” and you will receive happy hour pricing ALL NIGHT….. and wait say it again tomorrow morning and get 50% off breakfast before 10:30. What a deal!] (August 5)
Other tweets to watch for: Drink specials like $10 bottomless mimosas and bloody mary’s.
12. Stacked Bar (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Sample deal tweet: FACEBOOK FRIDAY: http://bit.ly/bPU5wa <–Get the code word! [Happy FACEBOOK FRIDAY the 13th! The code word for our drink special today is: JASON.] (August 13)
Other tweets to watch for: Bar specials like 2-for-1 local beers.
13. Sundance Cafe (Sacramento, Calif.)
Sample deal tweet: Purchase a Deli Combo lunch (Deli sandwich, side dish and soda) and receive a free chocolate chip cookie, Savings $ 1.39 (code word Starman) (August 16)
Other tweets to watch for: Daily specials and deals, like half-priced pastries from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.