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Panera Bread, Chipotle and more chains offer freebies, discounts amid coronavirus outbreak

A grilled chicken bowl at Chipotle in Hicksville.

A grilled chicken bowl at Chipotle in Hicksville. The chain is running a Chipotle Together promotion. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Newsday is opening this story to all readers as we provide Long Islanders with news and information you can use during the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates

Independently owned restaurants and chains dwell at opposite ends of the dining spectrum, yet both help make Long Island's restaurant scene tick. While chains may seem too big to fail, they are certainly not immune to the almost Shakespearean-level tragedy that has unfolded in the restaurant industry over the last few weeks as COVID-19 washes across the economy.

Many chains have laid off, or furloughed, thousands of employees; The Cheesecake Factory, in particular, made a news splash when it announced it would not pay its April lease on hundreds of locations. (And in Melville, the Walt Whitman Shops location of BRIO Tuscan Grille has closed permanently).

Like smaller restaurants, many chains are pulling out stops to survive. Almost all are offering free delivery, either via their own services or GrubHub and DoorDash, and some — like Carrabba's Italian Grill — have expanded their delivery areas. Still others, like Red Lobster, now offer beer and wine to go, too. Then there is a raft of deals that are unique to each; just be sure to pay attention to the fine print, as ordering in-app might be necessary for discounts and promotions.

Panera Bread: With the entire country in a fit of bread baking (yeast and flour continue to sell out at grocery stores), Panera has thrown down the gauntlet by offering free loaves of bread for a year with the purchase of a $50-plus Panera e-gift card, at participating locations. The deal is limited to one loaf per month, and there are a few other fine-print details at bit.ly/2xEQIEj (for instance, you will need to email a copy of your receipt to a company representative for redemption). 

IHOP: If you're ordering delivery from IHOP for the first time, which is likely, the chain is offering 20 percent off of your initial DoorDash order — use the code IHOP20 at checkout. They are also offering curbside pickup, as well as free delivery through April 19. More info: ihop.com

Chipotle: This burrito-and-bowl chain is known for its ethical approach to sourcing and operations, and has given employees a 10 percent hourly pay increase through April 20, as well as expanded emergency leave to those affected by COVID-19. For customers, they've been running a Chipotle Together campaign with live Zoom events, free delivery on orders over $10 and the chance to win free items when using @houseparty on Instagram. Details at chipotle.com/margarita.

Ruth's Chris Steak House: Yep, this is a bona fide chain, and they've put together a pre-fixe deal of a starter, entree and side, starting at $40. More info: ruthchris.com

McDonalds: is offering $1 off of soft drinks and free "McDelivery" through April 6 for all orders over $15, via UberEasts and DoorDash. More info: mcdonalds.com

Burger King: The rival to the Golden Arches has deals galore this month, from two free kids meals with a food purchase to an $8.99 Impossible Whopper meal for two (those are vegan burgers, by the way). More info: bk.com

Chili's Grill & Bar: It seems like every month brings a new drinks deal at Chili's, and the company has brought that same festive attitude to to-go orders, offering bottled beers and hard seltzers for $3 a pop, and six-packs for $10. You can also tack a $10 (or $12) bottle of wine to your order. But, sadly, Mar-Go-Ritas are for now only available in a few U.S. states, and New York is not one of them. More info: chilis.com

Subway: Promotions vary by location, but one of the most common across the board right now seems to be "buy two foot-long subs, and get one free." More info: subway.com

Wendy’s: Score a free butter chicken biscuit with any breakfast purchase, and get $2 off combos; both deals apply to in-app orders only. More info: wendys.com

PDQ: On Monday, March 30, PDQ slashed prices by 50 percent for medical professionals with a valid ID (drive-thru and to-go only). They're also offering buy-one-get-one free chicken tenders 'til April 7. More info: eatpdq.com

The Cheescake Factory: This crowd-favorite is offering a free slice of (what else) cheesecake with orders over $30, when customers use the code FREESLICE at checkout. Curbside delivery is a fixture. More info: thecheesecakefactory.com

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