Five Really Cool Things I Heard While Camping Out For Free Chick-Fil-A
Far more than at other fast food places, amazing things happen at Chick-Fil-A. A worker may come by your table to refill your drink, as though you were at a sit-down restaurant. A worker may walk you to your car in the rain holding an umbrella for you. People may start singing beautiful a cappella together.
The data that proves that Chick-Fil-A is on another planet as far as atmosphere and customer service is only surpassed by the thousands of stories people have told about the restaurant. The amount of videos and posts I’ve seen about it just on Facebook is astronomical. Their ‘Second Mile Service’ is legendary across the U.S.[1. I feel at this point my friend Josh Crowe would add that their mission statement is about glorifying God through stewardship and influence and doesn’t even include anything about making chicken.].
By 2011, I had lived in Chicago nine years. The city was different back then. The Cubs lost 91 games that year, in the middle of a five-year run of finishing 5th in the NL Central, and extended their World Series drought to 103 years. Richard Daley announced he would step down after over two decades years of being mayor. The phrase “Willis Tower” still tasted bad on the lips of many Chicagoans.
And back then, if I wanted Chick-Fil-A I had to drive 53.6 miles to Racine, WI, to get it. And you better believe I did. Often with large groups of people. Back then I was a youth pastor and road trips to Chick-Fil-A were on the church calendar every year. I love the food more than anything not from Yvonne Cannon’s kitchen and I would do whatever I could to get it. I knew where every CFA was in the tristate area, down to exits on the interstate[2. The one off of Exit 172 at West Lafayette, IN is still my favorite one not located in or around Nashville.].
Then, around late 2010, it happened: After a massive grassroots movement on Facebook and YouTube to bring it to Chicago, a couple of them popped up in distant suburbs. And then—insert Hallelujah chorus—it was announced that a Chick-Fil-A was coming to downtown Chicago in June 2011. I knew about the promotion that the first 100 customers got free food for a year and that you had to camp out to do it.
And I did it. The idea of being one of the first 100 at Chicago’s very first CFA was more than I could stand. It started at 6 PM on Friday night and I got there three hours early. There was a raffle because there was far more than 100 people and they called my number (39) pretty quickly. And as I waited in line for 12 hours I discovered that even when you have to stay up all night to wait for glorious free sandwiches, CFA still has a way of amazing you. From the comments of owner Dan Cathy and the people around me, I realized just how special this place was.
Here are five things I heard that night that made me smile:
“My husband and I had a bet as to which would happen first…the Cubs winning the World Series or Chicago getting a Chick-Fil-A. Never bet on the Cubs.” [Lady in line ahead of me]
The Cubs finally cracked through in 2016. Chick-Fil-A won the race by over five years.
“I don’t care how much sleep you get tonight, if you’re married you better be nice to your wife tomorrow.” [CEO Dan Cathy]
I loved this. He is a businessman, but for this moment he was preacher and pastor to 100+ CFA addicts.
“I go to our restaurants and I get in line like everyone else, I order like everyone else and I pay like everyone else.” [Dan Cathy]
I could shed a tear every time I think of this. This past Sunday I preached from Philippians 2:1-11 and when I got to “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being by very nature God, didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped,” I used this as an illustration. It is a Christian virtue.
“The CEO is at the corner of Wabash and Chicago in Chick-Fil-A pajama pants and a cow hat. He wasn’t kidding when he said they do things differently.” [Man at the table next to mine, when they fed us at midnight]
It should be obvious by now that Dan Cathy was the star of the night.
“I had to cover one of these things for another restaurant that offered a prize for the first 100, and when I showed up at 6:00 AM there were only 28 people in line. So I shot the story, then got in line and got the prize. That never happens at Chick-Fil-A.” [Undisclosed local TV station camera man]
The man made us promise we wouldn’t say who he was to anyone because he could get in trouble, and maybe the statute of limitations has passed. But I will keep my promise.
Truly an unforgettable night at an amazing place.