For a change of pace from our usual workweek, we attended a Chick-fil-A store grand opening this week in Port Arthur, Texas. The stores open on Thursday mornings at 6 am, and the first 100 people in line at that time receive free Chick-fil-A for a year in the form of 52 coupons for free meals, one for every week of the year. Chick-fil-A openings are becoming extremely popular, and the first 100 spots in line can be filled very close to the start time of 6 am.
To be on the safe side, and to avoid waking up really early in the morning to drive to Port Arthur, we decided to drive up on Tuesday night, and spend two nights under the stars. We arrived at the unopened Chick-fil-A at about 11 pm on Tuesday night, and there were already about 15 people in line ahead of us. We killed some time at Wal-Mart and bought some diversions to keep ourselves entertained as we awaited the opening, including a Trivial Pursuit game and a bouncy ball.
We awoke Wednesday morning to the heat, and the sound of a long line of people behind us trying to be in the first 100. When the Chick-fil-A officials arrived, we gave them our information, received our official wristbands, and agreed not to leave the premises until the actual opening time, or else we would be disqualified. The bathroom inside the store was continually available for our use, but hanging out inside the building is against the rules; everyone had to stay outside unless they are using the bathroom.
Throughout the day, we were fed Chick-fil-A meals, and sweet tea and water was always on hand. Most people had set up tents or sun shades, and some even had extension cords for fans, or a TV. People played cards, four square, and chased the shade around the building as time passed. During the high heat of the afternoon, the Chick-fil-A people set up a kiddie swimming pool, and even turned on the fire hydrant so that people could cool off. Other activities included a hula-hoop contest, and a DJ later in the evening. For dinner, we were all invited into the store and allowed to order anything off the menu, free of charge and subject to availability. During this time, the employees had the opportunity to practice excellent service, and were very attune to our needs as customers.
At nightfall, most of us slept outside instead of in the tent, because it was cooler. Unfortunately, we were also more exposed to the elements, and had to run back inside the tent when it started to rain at 3 am. Soon after that, we were all told to go inside the store due to lightning, and then to go back outside when the lightning stopped, so that they could prepare for the official opening.
News reporters had visited throughout the time, but were especially interested in filming the official opening. The Chick-fil-A cow was also onsite in the morning, to give high fives to the first 100 and add excitement to the sleepy mood. When it was time, we were all given a Chick-fil-A t-shirt, hat, and pen, and walked one by one into the store to receive our 52 coupon prize in a cardboard chicken nugget container with a red bow on it. We then took an early drive back to Houston, to start another day of focused work.