Chick fil-A Wins Customers ... by Closing

Chick Fil-A

Where's the new hottest place to be on Wednesday nights?

Judging by the size of a recent crowd in Dallas, it's parking lots. But not just any parking lots. The real action is on the asphalt outside soon-to-be opened Chick fil-A restaurants.

Four years ago, in order to get publicity for new Chick fil-A openings, the restaurant chain began offering a free chicken sandwich meal once a week for a year for the first 100 people through the door. As word of the grand openings spread, people started coming earlier and earlier for a place in line.

So, Wednesday mornings around 6 a.m., tents sprout up and lounge chairs appear, and for the next 24 hours, there's a party -- with lots of dancing, games and plenty of time for just hanging out.

Getting the coveted First in Line spot in Dallas was Paul Kingery of Norman, Okla.

"We did a roundtrip from Norman, me and another couple," he said. "I don't know what it is. It's just like, let's do that. It's just a cool company. They're really nice to let us do this, we have a good time." That's more than 300 miles for this roundtrip. Kingery said he and his wife (No. 2 in line) would save $600 this year with the free meals. But while they appreciate the savings, he said, they go because of how they're treated at the restaurants.

"The chicken is great, but their values -- you say 'Thanks,' they say 'My pleasure,'" said Kingery. "I think that's cool."

Juan Sierra, a self-described "raving fan," had only travelled around the state of Texas for openings. But so far, he'd been to 41 of them across the Lone Star State.

At another opening in La Plata, Md., campers were eager to show off their comforts for the overnight.

"Check out my crib here," one told ABC News. "See, I've got my nice little chair here."

In the midst of the hubbub, one figure stands out. He is friendly, unassuming and, even though he's been to nearly 100 campouts, he's as excited to pitch his tent in the parking lot as any of the other campers.

"Hi, I'm Dan," he introduces himself to one group. "Can I get a picture with you?"

"Would you guys like to go take a little kitchen tour?" he asks another.

Dan is Dan Cathy, the president of Chick fil-A.

'It's Family Time'

"My name is Dan Cathy and I work here at Chick fil-A, and I like to say that I work in customer service at Chick fil-A," Cathy told yet another group with an understated smile.

And yes, he does stay overnight in a tent pitched right there in the drive-through lane.

Why does he keep coming out?

"I'm a party animal, I love it, I enjoy it," said Cathy. "It's a lot more fun being out here than being in the hotel room. I just enjoy being with the customers and talking to them."

To be sure, some of the campers come for the chicken. But for most, celebrating on Wednesday is a way to honor what the restaurants do on Sunday.

Which is this: They close.

"Every employee knows ahead of time Sunday is their day," said Libby Knupp, who, with her husband Jake, is a veteran of more than 35 overnights around the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. "They are on no schedule, they can plan, it's family time, it's a good thing." Another camper, Elva Cummins, also praised the policy. "We like Chick fil-A because they are a very Christian people, they don't work their people on Sundays," said Cummins.

Asked where it says, in the Bible, to honor the Sabbath, camper Justin Dardee, a college student, promptly gave the reference behind the corporate policy.

"Exodus, chapter 20," he said.

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