Hula hoops. Tents. Marching Bands. DJs. Dance contests. Scavenger hunts. These are not items normally associated with the opening of a fast food restaurant. Chick-fil-A prides itself on being more than just a typical fast food restaurant. And this was more than just an average opening.
As reported in earlier editions and on the Town Courier website, Chick-fil-A opened in Kentlands on April 12. The precursor to the grand opening for any Chick-fil-A franchise is the “First 100” promotion. In summary, the promotion rewards the first 100 folks willing to camp out for 24 hours in the franchise parking lot, with free Chick-fil-A for a year.
“When I woke up last Wednesday morning in Kentlands, I left the house telling my wife that I would be happy if 20 people were out there. … It was really cold that morning,” said Kentlands Chick-fil-A owner Brian Summers. “When I arrived at 6:20 [a.m.], I found 215 people were in line! That far exceeded my expectations.”
A lottery was held for those in line at 6 a.m. the day prior to restaurant opening, and those selected as the First 100 were required to remain on (or in front of!) the property until prizes were awarded the following morning.
Chick-fil-A aficionados came from near and far to join in the festivities, and the Courier’s informal, unscientific poll found participants were there predominantly for the fun more than the free food.
Kris Markovich of Fairfax, Va., counted the Kentlands opening as her eighth. “It is an adventure. This time my mom and dad were able to join me along with my husband and son. It is always a fun experience.”
And fun it was. The license plates in the lot represented states near and far, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Many veterans of these openings brought Monopoly, playing cards, battery-operated televisions and all assortment of entertainment. Chick-fil-A did its part as well, providing three square meals and activities galore.
“There were games all day long, as well as the Quince Orchard High School Marching Band and a DJ with music through the night,” said Summers. “Most of the First 100 were out dancing until 10 p.m.”
“It was a blast in the evening,” said Lakelands resident Shannon Helfert. Helfert, who camped out with her husband, Joe, and their three children, said, “My son won the dance contest, and they had so much going on — it was great.”
What wasn’t great, unfortunately, was the weather. After weeks of above-average temperatures, campers were faced with overcast skies, chilly temperatures and a brief sleet shower. Spirits, however, were not dampened.
Summers reported that the first weekend of business was brisk, a trend he hopes will continue after the initial rush wears off.
“Business has simply been amazing! We are working to get better each and every day,” said Summers. “We are obviously trying to work out a few kinks to make service faster and more accurate. Overall, I feel that the team did very well since this was their first exposure to a Chick-fil-A grand opening.
“Over the next few weeks, as we perfect our operational excellence, we will venture out and do more things in the community. We need to get all of the fundamentals right before we start moving out of the restaurant.”
Chick-fil-A, welcome to the neighborhood!