Chick-fil-A First 100 Aren't Crazy; They're Actually Kind of Nice
When they started building the Chick-fil-A in the Shops At Rossmoor in Seal Beach, it was like Willy Wonka was opening a factory. People would slow in the far left lane on Seal Beach Boulevard, craning their necks at the rapidly growing red and white stucco monolith, pleased to note the two lane drive thru and the doublewide dining area. Last week, I was making my usual pass on the way home, and I had to stop. Something was different. The Oompa Loompas had arrived -- there was a goddamned tent city in the parking lot.
Colored pennant-line roped off a majority of the parking lot, tents and sleeping bags were strewn KOA-style on the asphalt, and some people were even being let in and out of the building--it looked like the Quidditch World Cup had decided to stop off in Seal Beach for the day.
Why were they all there? They were waiting for the Chick-fil-A to open the following morning at 6:30 a.m., when they would all be given a year's supply of free chicken.
And what's more, they weren't crazy: Chick-fil-A totally encourages their behavior. There's a whole list of rules and regulations on their website, when new stores are opening, and just how to finagle those 52 Combo #1 Golden Tickets. On their website, Chick-fil-a refers to the family-friendly Occupy gatherings as "First 100" and have the grand openings down to a science.
24 hours before the opening of a restaurant, people can start to line up. The restaurant does a drawing, and 100 of those who lined up (and 10 alternates) get a ticket. Everybody else goes home while the lucky 100 unloads tents, awnings, air mattresses and urban camping gear from their trucks and spend the next 24 hours in the parking lot. The next morning they'll be processed and given 52 coupons--each one good for one Original Chicken Sandwich, Waffle Fries, and a drink--to be used at any Chick-fil-A, no restrictions.
It sucks about Dan Cathy's politics, and it really sucks that the place is never open on Sundays, but damn, that chicken is delicious, and free for a year? The wealth of kings, right there.
The night of was a little insane. There was a DJ and disco-lights, employees were organizing games and children were running around with reckless abandon. Friends and family members of ticket winners stood outside the cordoned off area, chatting amiably. Everyone was smiling, in a great mood -- it turns out the restaurant had been opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner to those chosen few free of charge, to let the staff get some practice. They even let everyone in to use the bathrooms inside the restaurant. Nobody looks hungry or tired, or even a little uncomfortable.