“It’s fun to bring a bunch of people and hang out,” he said.
The giveaway attracts young and old alike. Charles Walker, 78, sat in a lawn chair and wrapped in a blanket as he kept his spot as No. 91 in line. It was 5 a.m. Thursday and he had just one more hour to go before claiming his prize.
Unlike Broom and his college buddies, Walker hadn’t planned on camping out. He happened to pass by the restaurant Wednesday afternoon and realized the promotion was going on. So he got a place in line, stayed put and called his daughter, Christel Walker.
“He had nothing with him,” she said. She and her 6-year-old daughter, Cali Smith, showed up with necessities – “I bundled my dad up” – and kept the elderly man company through the evening and into the morning. Walker walked away with that coveted free meals-for-a-year prize, not for him but for his Chick-fil-A-loving wife.
This was the first time the Walkers had participated in a Chick-fil-A campout, and they commended the company for keeping people comfortable with free food and use of its restrooms.
“If they are willing to camp out on our property, we want to make it a good time for them,” said Chick-fil-A spokesperson Cindy Chapman. The company treated its urban campers to breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a late-night snack of warm cookies and milk. A DJ provided entertainment. There was a lip sync competition. And, in keeping with Chick-fil-A’s community outreach efforts, there was a bit of do-gooding. Folks waiting for free food helped package meals for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
The First 100 tradition dates back some 13 years and, at this point, Chick-fil-A has the process down. Nearly 30 people from the company were present to check eligibility requirements, provide food, run line checks and help things run smoothly. The same thing was happening in Austin, Baltimore and Tampa, as the company had four restaurants all opening on April 27.
But one thing that sets the new Atlanta location apart is its close proximity to Greenbriar Mall, where Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant 50 years ago. Whitney Schwartz, a Chick-fil-A grand opening event planner based outside of San Francisco, was especially excited for this assignment that brought her back to her native Atlanta.
Possibly the most enthusiastic person on the premises was Jean Floyd, proudly wearing a wristband that marked her as the first person in line. “I’m in line for my grandchildren. They love Chick-fil-A,” she said. Floyd arrived Wednesday morning at 4:45 a.m. But she’d been scheming over the giveaway ever since construction on the restaurant began a year ago.
Jean Floyd was the first person in line for the Chick-fil-A First 100 promotion at the newest restaurant at 3724 Cascade Road in southwest Atlanta. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
“I kept my eye open,” she said about her wait for opening day.
While this was Floyd’s first Chick-fil-A campout, holding a place in line is nothing new for her. “I used to camp out for Jackson Five tickets and Staples after-Christmas sales,” she said.
As the 6 a.m. opening neared, the lucky 100 lined up one more time. They donned white Chick-fil-A T-shirts handed out to them. They high-fived the Chick-fil-A cow mascot. Then they entered the building to cheers from the staff. Franchise operator Rory Woodfaulk shook each person’s hand as he passed out the gift cards.
Not everyone was a winner. Dexter Clark stood watching behind a rope that separated winners from wannabees. He had arrived Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. but left, thinking he was too late. But he came back the next morning, just to see the hullabaloo – and to buy some food.
“I heard one is opening in two weeks in another location, so I might try that one,” he said.
Indeed, another Chick-fil-A will open at 2975 Cobb Parkway on May 11. Mark your calendar for May 10, then get in line.
Chick-fil-A First 100. The next giveaway for free Chick-fil-A meal cards is May 10-11 at 2975 Cobb Parkway, Atlanta in Akers Mill Square. www.chick-fil-a.com.
It’s a celebration every time a new Chick-fil-A opens. See the festivities from yesterday’s grand opening at the Chick-fil-A at 3725 Cascade Road in southwest Atlanta when 100 fans received a prize of free food for a year.