A Shout Out to Olive Garden and Starbucks for Veterans Day Offers

Veterans Day Free Meal Menu at Olive Garden

Every year that I’ve been in the United States on Veterans Day I’ve had the opportunity to get freebies from various companies when dining out. For example, Olive Garden offered a free entree and Starbucks offered a free tall (small) plain coffee for veterans. I took advantage of both. There are other sites that have lists of what restaurants offered this year, though. That’s not really the point of this post.

I was just thinking about how great it is that as a veteran these companies are willing to recognize my military service by giving me something for free. Granted, people who serve in the military are essentially putting themselves at risk to preserve the U.S. way of life, including its economy, in theory, and are protecting these businesses as a result, but that doesn’t obligate them to offer discounts or free meals.

I suppose I’m a pessimist. You almost have to draw blood to get wages raised to what constitutes a living wage. Companies cut corners by putting yoga mat material in their so-called meat patties to increase profits. So, to see a company just putting stuff out there for veterans for free still surprises me every year.

This post is basically just a big thank you to those companies and especially to Olive Garden and Starbucks since I’ve gone to those establishments nearly every year on Veterans Day. Thanks!

Veteran’s Day Dinner 2013

PVT Elma and Me July 30 1999 Fort Lee VA, AIT
“PVT Elma + Me. July 30, 99 Fort Lee, VA (AIT)”

Ever since I enlisted in the Army and businesses started offering Veterans Day promotions, I’ve tried to make it to a participating business each year. I’m not one to pass up free food, especially when it’s from a place like Olive Garden. I’m just being practical. Besides, I’m a veteran, and in a way, I already paid for it. That’s what the day is about, and I’m glad businesses have decided to give back to the veteran community one day a year in a show of appreciation for the efforts and loss that some people went through, or are still going through, for those on active duty.

The first time I remember going to a restaurant for a free meal on Veterans Day was when I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I think I went to a Golden Corral or a similar all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant with a group of guys from my unit.  This year, like last year, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden in Times Square. In addition to the free entree for veterans, the restaurant was offering 10% off for family members. I’m not sure if that was 10% off the rest of the bill, or just the other entree(s). I forgot to check and tossed the receipt already, but it doesn’t really matter to me. A discount is a discount.


The entree options for veterans were limited, but they offered a nice variety of choices. I went with the cheese ravioli. We also got the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and my wife ordered the capellini pomodoro, which she said tasted delicious.  It looked delicious. I also ordered a new drink they have, a blood orange blackberry iced tea. That tasted outstanding.

Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Capellini Pomodoro
Capellini Pomodoro

These guys were outside the Olive Garden. I thought it was pretty cool, so I want to share the photo:

Mounted NYPD
Mounted NYPD

We finished the evening off at Starbucks, which was offering a free tall brewed coffee to veterans and family members.

The evening wasn’t completely free, but the discounts at Olive Garden made our evening out more affordable and gave my wife and I an opportunity to be thankful for my coming home in one piece, to remember those who didn’t, and gave us another reason to just spend time together out of the house. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.

Singapore Starbucks Supports A Salvation Army Initiative

Earlier today, from 5 to 7 PM Singapore was giving away free ‘tall’ sized drinks, but with a good-hearted catch.  They weren’t just handing out free drinks because they felt generous, or to drum up business or publicity, it was to raise funds and awareness for the Salvation Army.

I went to the Tampines Starbucks at 5:30 PM and there was already a sizable line reaching back out the door.  Starbucks was well prepared for the crowds with partitions set up and employees outside to keep the line under control.  I decided to go eat dinner first, but when I came back at 6:30 PM the line was still wrapped around the back of the cafe.

Regardless, I wanted my chance to get a drink and offer a donation so I got in line.  As I fell in at the back of the line a Starbucks employee asked me what I wanted and then handed me a paper with my order on it.  I suppose that was their way of ensuring that they could effectively cut off the line when the promotion time was over.  Shortly after that the line moved and I walked up to two Salvation Army workers with the traditional bell and pot.  I made my donation and moved on.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to get my drink, which wound up being a vanilla latte because they ran out of toffee nut, and I found a seat inside and watched the end of the event.  The employees were surprisingly upbeat and excited, despite the overwhelming crowd.  There looked to be about 20 of them there though so they weren’t overworked.

After the event was over they all posed for a group photo.  Another person was there taking photos with a big DSLR.  He seemed to know the employees so he probably worked for Starbucks as well.

I think this was a great way for Starbucks to help give back to the community in Singapore and I was more than happy to part with a few dollars, which would’ve been spent on coffee anyway.

Toffee Nut Lattes

The toffee nut latte is the one exception to my rule about not liking Starbucks.  Most of their drinks are watered down tasting and overpriced.  What you wind up paying for is the name and the ‘experience’ of sitting in their cafe.

The toffee nut latte is still damned expensive, with the ‘venti’ costing 7.30 SGD, but it tastes good and there’s definitely something relaxing about sitting at a Starbucks enjoying a drink.  I’m not so sure my enjoyment of the drink comes from the actual taste of it.  It’s not bad but it’s not anything incredible.  I think it comes from the fact that it’s a holiday drink, only available at this time of year, and it’s the first sign that Christmas is fast approaching.