You’ve clearly heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  Well, on my recent trip to Maui, I saw how one businessman got himself a free lunch every day and how giving away a free lunch benefitted that restaurant.

On our holiday, one of the activities that we participated in was biking down the majority of Haleakalā, a 10,000 foot dormant volcano.  Our bike leader took a group of about 10 of us on the hour and a half or so ride and afterwards, shepherded us to a local restaurant in Paia, the location where the ride ended.

As we got to the counter to order our lunch, my husband and I offered to pay for our guide’s lunch.  He said not to worry, that he got lunch there for free.  As I immediately understood the tradeoff, I pressed for more information, and as suspected, the guide brings new groups of bike riders (aka tourists with money) to this local establishment each day. In return, he gets a free lunch.  This is a win-win situation for both entities.

For the restaurant, this is a steady stream of 10 customers, who would otherwise not eat there, guaranteed every day. Their acquisition cost is very low.  Let’s say the average check was $10 for the lunch, that’s $100 of incremental business each day. The cost for that is a lunch. Even at the same $10 check, the cost of food in a restaurant is only about 30%, so that means the cost for them to acquire each $100 is a paltry $3, a completely worthwhile sum.

For the tour guide, this is a great business maneuver as well.  He has to eat lunch anyways, so why not get someone else to pay for it (I can guarantee you that he’s not claiming it as income and by getting it for free, he actually gets more true value, as he doesn’t have to use his taxable wages to pay for it himself)?  Plus, having the food adds value to the tour.  It’s a long tour, so letting folks go home hungry would make the biking less desirable, plus we got to see a cute local establishment.  Not to mention having a longer tour justifies the high price tag of the tour (even though the lunch is paid for by the tourists).

So, how can you get or give a free lunch (or equivalent product or service) in your business efforts?  If you offer goods and services, who do you know that has access to your target customer and that you can incentivize to bring them by?  If you are a massage therapist, is there a concierge that you can do a trade with or a doctor’s office that can make recommendations to send customers your way?  On the other side, if you have access to customers, is there a logical product or service that they need that you can shepherd them to and get an extra benefit for yourself?

Start thinking about how you can get (or give) a free lunch.

Speaking of lunch, as a side note: if you go to Hawaii, I would tread carefully with the hamburgers.  Cows there are grass fed and therefore, the burgers taste totally different than the corn fed cow burgers we are used to on the mainland (especially this girl from the Midwest)!