A couple of years ago I heard an episode of This American Life that included a story about Chick-fil-A’s First 100 promotion. The “First 100” refers to the first 100 people in line at the grand opening of a new Chick-fil-A location. This lucky group gets free Chick-fil-A for a year in the form of 52 free combo meal coupons. When I saw that there was a new Chick-fil-A opening about 15 miles from me, I figured that I’d give camping out for 52 coupons a try.
I arrived at 5:30 am the day before the restaurant’s Thursday opening. By 6:00 am, everyone was lined up in groups of 25 in the parking lot…all 275 of us. The Chick-fil-A staff then did a raffle for 110 spots (the first 100 guaranteed the prize for staying and ten alternates). After 73 numbers were called, my raffle ticket was selected and I became part of the First 100! I signed a release form, was given a wristband with my number on it and wrote my name on an Eat-Mor-Chicken cup for the drink station.
I was then told where to set up my $25 tent. It was my first time setting up a tent and I managed to break one of the poles in the process. Later that morning we lined up in order for our first meal (and the first of several line checks to make sure that everyone was still present) and walked through the drive thru for a chicken biscuit breakfast. I drank at least a gallon of sweet tea from the drink station that day and the friendly folks at Chick-fil-A always ensured that we were well-fed and hydrated. We had Original chicken sandwiches and fries for lunch and dinner, ice dream with toppings in the afternoon and a late night snack of nuggets. The service was amazing, as always, and it was easy to stay upbeat with all of the smiles and “my pleasures.”
There was music playing throughout the day and games for prizes like free milkshakes or lemonade. I learned that people get really excited about milkshakes and lemonade on 90 degree days. Everyone also got excited about the stuffed cows that were thrown from the roof of the restaurant. I met a lot of great people at First 100. There were quite a few First 100 veterans who had been to five or more First 100 events. Most of the people I talked to were surprised that I came alone, but it was kind of nice to take a day off and catch up on some reading.
I didn’t sleep well that night. My tent was leaning and shaking in the wind and there was a giant light above it. We were woken up around 5:30 am on Thursday morning and lined up to receive our prizes. We put on I Heart Chick-fil-A shirts and paper Chick-fil-A hats and walked into the store to receive a nugget box wrapped with ribbon that contained the coveted coupons. The cow mascot waved and employees banged on pots and pans. We also got a bunch of high fives. The new Chick-fil-A was officially open for business and I was tempted to go it to get a cinnamon cluster and coffee for breakfast, but I folded up my tent and headed home for a shower.
I’m not sure that I’ll become one of the First 100 participants who travels from state to state to camp out for coupons, but it was a fun experience. It was totally worth it to dedicate a day of my life in pursuit of free chicken.