Are you looking for a birthday present? Your search ends here


When breakfast arrives, Kendra Seguin appears to apologize.

‘It’s a little awkward but I have to show my mum I got my free birthday breakfast,’ she says holding her phone of the shiny bacon, sausages, too-easy eggs and hash browns.

His driver’s license on the table confirms his 21st birthday today. That was all she needed to redeem the free Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. When it comes to birthday perks, there’s usually some work to do beforehand — signing up for a newsletter, downloading an app, making a minimum purchase, bringing three friends with you. But at Denny’s, all you have to do is show up with your ID and pay the tax and tip.

No matter the weather or the state of the economy, there’s always someone celebrating at the restaurant west of the Eaton Center, says Prakash Raj. Raj is the chief operating officer of this location and another that his uncle owns in Vaughan. They thought about suspending the benefit of building your own Grand Slam during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns as revenue took a hit, but they didn’t want to disappoint anyone. (That’s a $12.79 value, upgrades and premium options are extra.) Some of the celebrants are regulars, and about a third see him once a year on their special day. Denny’s Canada has offered free breakfast since the 1990s. Of more than 70 Canadian franchises, only two are opting out of the promotion (Niagara Falls and Nepean). Each year, more than 15,000 Canadians celebrate their birthday with a free breakfast.

For Seguin, a student at Metropolitan University of Toronto (formerly Ryerson University), birthdays are a long-standing family tradition. Everyone in his family takes the free Starbucks drink and the Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich. She was always bargain-conscious, signing up for mailing lists, looking through flyers.

“That’s definitely the way I was raised,” she says, chopping her eggs with the back of her fork. « My mom taught me everything I need to know to be profitable. »

With rising inflation, a turbulent real estate market and soaring grocery prices, birthday gifts offer goodwill and a break for the wallet.

« I’ve actually seen a number of people’s TikToks doing this too, » she says. « Maybe it’s getting bigger, or maybe it’s just the type of content I like on TikTok. »

For businesses, promotions often become loss leaders, built into the marketing budget as a way to attract people, spend them right away (like a free birthday offer), or encourage loyalty and sales. future expenses, says Richard Powers, national academic director at the Rotman School of Management. Most businesses these days require their customers to sign up for a loyalty program or download an app so they can monitor their buying habits and tailor their pitches, he says. (In the US, Denny’s Free Birthday Breakfast migrated to their online rewards program in 2021. In Canada, the free breakfast is not tied to the rewards program.) are just another way for companies to compete, and they’re easy to copy.

« The winner in the end can only be the birthday boy or girl! » he wrote in an email.

Signing up means lots of emails throughout the year, but once June rolls around, Kendra Seguin dives into her « Promotions » tab in her Gmail for the birthday harvest. Seguin pulls out a Great Canadian Bagel postcard for half a dozen bagels. This is his next stop. This afternoon, she’ll get her free frozen strawberry lemonade at Starbucks.

It’s the lull between breakfast and lunch, and a cook sings 80s hits while a waiter taps away at the host’s stand. Students toss their backpacks on their chairs, spoons clink against china cups, and every few minutes a streetcar passes, casting a shadow over the restaurant’s hushed but cheerful interior.

At the Seguin kiosk, his telephone lights up.

“What a great birthday breakfast and I also see dear JO lol”, sends his mother by text.

Seguin says she would feel guilty if she didn’t buy anything.

Raj likes it when people bring friends or order something else, but it doesn’t have to be. One time four people walked in and shared a free breakfast. Another time a woman called to see if her husband could pick up his birthday breakfast with his permit because she had broken a bone. When she called a few weeks later to request a birthday meal for her housebound 93-year-old mother, he said yes, but told her it was his last call. The freebie is an on-site promotion. At the height of the pandemic, Raj made exceptions, but not anymore. Business has not returned to 2019 levels, but some days it can break even. Inflation is the final challenge.

The Grand Slam is a big breakfast, and Seguin can’t finish it. She takes the rest to take out, pays for her orange juice, taxes and tip, and walks outside. It is now lunchtime and the Bay Street crowds are flocking to the sun. Seguin descends an escalator in the windowless PATH and scans the Great Canadian Bagel offerings.

« It’s embarrassing, » she said for the second time today. She feels bad that we followed her here, only to find that her favorite herb and cheddar bagels are sold out. The coupon is valid for the month, so she will redeem it on another day.

Back at Denny’s, a few more free eggs are broken that afternoon. The next day there are three more birthdays.

Prakash Raj has never redeemed a gift like this. « Not even a single drink, » he laughs. But his concert is not without advantages. Orders that no one picks up, meals made by mistake, these sometimes become his lunch. Especially French toast.

A sample of birthday benefits

(Plan ahead – most require registration before your birthday.)

New York fries — Free regular fries for loyalty club members;

Tim Hortons — Free hot drink or breakfast sandwich for members;

Baskin Robbins — Buy ​​one and get one free for members;

Great Canadian Bagel — Half a dozen free bagels if you submit your mailing address online;

Wok of FameBrampton: Free birthday buffet with three paying guests and valid photo ID;

chatime — Free regular size drink for rewards members;

Kettleman Bagels — Dozen of bagels for reward members;

Mr Sub – Free small submarine (some types) for rewards members;

panera bread — Free treat for rewards members;

Sephora — Birthday gift for Sephora members.

Katie Daubs is a Toronto-based Star reporter and feature writer. Follow her on Twitter: @kdaubs


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