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Father’s Day free meals for dads

Father’s Day means many things. Pathetic ties. Neon-green sweaters. And, increasingly, free eats for Dad.

Some familiar restaurant brands, including TCBY, Spaghetti Warehouse, Buca di Beppo and Hooters, will dole out free food for Father’s Day, hoping that no-cost or low-cost meals in a tough economy will lure guests who might not otherwise walk in the door.

The problem: Father’s Day isn’t traditionally a big day for the restaurant industry, as many dads would rather be flipping burgers on the grill.

“Mother’s Day is often positioned as a splurge day, but, for some reason, children are not expected to treat their fathers on Father’s Day,” says marketing consultant Tracey Riese.

Here are some freebies up for grabs this Father’s Day:

Spaghetti — For the third year in row, Spaghetti Warehouse offers free spaghetti or lasagna entrees (with soup and salad) to dads who bring in downloaded coupons from the chain’s website on Father’s Day. Last year, the 16-unit chain handed out 6,000 free entrees, says marketing director Kathy Wan.

Fudge cake — Shoney’s is giving dads its best-selling dessert, Hot Fudge Cake, with entrée purchases. “This day is about dads, not us,” says CEO David Davoudpour.

Yogurt cup— Dads get free, six-ounce cups — and at some stores, cones — of TCBY frozen yogurt. Many associate frozen yogurt more with female customers, so TCBY is reaching out to dads on Father’s Day, says Dustin Finkel, senior director at Famous Brands, which owns TCBY.

Chicken wings — Dads who purchase 10 chicken wings at Hooters on Father’s Day will get 10 free. Last year, some 20,000 dads came in for the Father’s Day deal, says Dave Henninger, marketing chief. “It gives infrequent guests a reason to come back and join us,” he says.

Cannoli — For dads who savor cannoli, Buca di Beppo, the Italian restaurant chain, will hand them out, free, to dads with special, downloaded coupons. The promo’s name: Holy Free Cannoli.

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