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Chick-fil-A: campout at the coop

More than 100 people spend the night in tents so they can earn vouchers for free food

Posted: August 6, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Updated: August 6, 2010 6:00 a.m.
One hundred and ten people camped outside Chick-fil-A before it’s grand opening on Wednesday, July 28. One hundred and ten people camped outside Chick-fil-A before it’s grand opening on Wednesday, July 28.
One hundred and ten people camped outside Chick-fil-A before it’s grand opening on Wednesday, July 28.

For one night I was part of a tent colony. Living as vagrants, we looked out for one another, scavenged for food and found that bushes doubled as two forms of relief: a bathroom and refuge from the wretched sun.

Well ... none of that really happened, but I did set up a tent outside of the new Valencia Chick-fil-A on July 28, while more than 100 others did the same.

We had a nice time, playing games and eating mouth-watering chicken sandwiches, with full use of the brand new establishment's facilities - including the restrooms.

This wasn't my first time camping out at Chick-fil-A. Exactly two years and one day before this opening, I stayed the day and night at an opening in the City of Industry. I learned the hard way that it's not easy to get sleep on a recliner in the middle of a parking lot.

So, going into this, I knew there was not much sleep to be had - and I discovered later that it was even less sleep than I anticipated - but it's also not what the event was about. This event is about hanging out with good people who have a common goal in mind: Withstand sunburns, boredom and asphalt-induced backaches to get 52 vouchers for a No. 1 meal, which includes the "original chicken sandwich," waffle fries and a drink.

So what's the big deal?

Besides the obvious (the free food), the chicken is just that good.

It is seasoned with 21 herbs and spices. No, that's not a typo - Chick-fil-A's secret recipe employs 10 more spices than The Colonel's at KFC.

Using the Spinal Tap theory that 11 is one louder than 10, Chick-fil-A is 10 tastier than KFC.

(For the record, I'm not trashing KFC, but asking me which establishment has better chicken is like asking which one of my kids I like better. If my kids were chicken-serving restaurants, my answer would be Chick-fil-A).

During the day I ate a total of three sandwiches, which kept me happy as I wandered aimlessly on my quest for interesting people.

One woman set up in the turn of the drive-thru had been to nine openings, the first of which also happened to be my first. We chatted briefly before she realized that I was one of the guys who had stupidly brought his whole living room (couch, recliner, coffee table and throwrug) to the City of Industry opening ... and didn't have a tent. She flipped through a photo album and lo and behold, there was a picture of my roommate on our recliner from two years prior.

Another man had been to 23 openings, but once he heard I worked at The Signal, he promptly stopped answering questions and, I think, started to regret allowing me to speak with him.

"When was your first overnight stay?"


"What is the farthest you've travelled for Chick-fil-A?"


"Do you hate me now?"

You get the idea.

I hunkered back to my tent wondering if I should just hang up my pen then and there. But I didn't, and I found many people excited to talk about their day and their love for Chick-fil-A.

One in particular was Donovan LaChance, store manager and sometimes cow mascot. Donovan was nice enough to take me on a tour of the kitchen. I was able to maintain my professionalism and held back my tears of joy.

Shortly after the DJ left and snoring started to rise in choral fashion, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and tent, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before waking up to receive my coupons.

But it was not so. I was woken repeatedly.

Customers leaving TGI Friday's blasted music.

Someone lit off a large firecracker.

Someone snored.

A couple drove by, arguing at full volume, windows down.

An even larger firecracker went off, and this time the noise lasted longer.

And, to top it all off, a horde of hooligans on bicycles rode by while tooting whistles and screaming nonsense. As if we didn't have enough annoyances already.

But the thought of juicy, crispy and simple sandwiches kept me going through the night. Once I reached a slumbering state, visions of Chick-fil-A sauce and peach shakes danced in my head.

I woke up, packed up and snagged myself some meal vouchers. Once all of my junk was in the car, I walked through the doors, this time as a customer, and ordered a Chicken Biscuit.

It's just that good. I didn't get it with a voucher - I paid for it because it's worth it.
Just like it's worth it to camp on concrete, it will be worth every penny once those coupons are used up.


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