At 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Chick-fil-A opened its first stand-alone location in New York at 1000 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, an anticipated opening that has caused a lot of people to freak out. (This despite the fact that there’s already another location inside an NYU dining hall downtown.) Even still, Friday evening — with the weather report showing rainstorms through the night — saw 300 people queue up hoping to become one of the first 100 customers to win what the chicken chain called free food “for a year” (in reality, 52 Chick-fil-A Sandwich Meals, which translates to one trip per week). In the end, the chain didn’t force people to stand in line in the rain overnight, but the opening was nevertheless met with protests and calls for LGBT rights.
Fans and opportunists started lining up Friday at 3 p.m. (One customer, who identified himself only as Pablo, said he was the 34th person in line when he arrived at 3:30.) Chick-fil-A had originally said it would require fans to wait overnight if they hoped to win one of the 100 free-meal prizes — a night that promised to be cold and rainy. Fortunately, the company took pity on its potential customers and held the lottery at night, naming the 100 winners and allowing them to spend the night inside the store, where they showed — somewhat fittingly — Night at the Museum. Then, at 6 a.m. on Saturday, the customers lined back up and filed inside once more, where they were welcomed by an earnestly cheering staff in a ceremony straight out of a high-school football game. (Outside, meanwhile, a group of critics protested the famously conservative chain.)
That didn’t seem to bother the early bird customers, though, who managed to get their free chicken (which amounts to roughly $400 worth of food, earned after 15 hours of waiting). Grub was there, and spoke with several customers, including Corrine and Eddie from Brooklyn.
What was the line like? Was there any tension while you were waiting?
Corrine: Someone actually snitched while we were in line, on another guy. They both got chosen.
Eddie: We had a brief discussion with this guy, the police were telling us to corral in and to make more room for people on the sidewalk, and he got angry and was telling me that I was cutting in front of him. I was trying to tell him, “Dude, you’re good. It’s 300 people and you’re already in the 300, you can’t lose your spot.” And he said, “Well, I’m not going to lose it if you get behind me.” And I’m like, “You’re missing the point. There is no line anymore.” He didn’t care. It was, “I was here before you. I want you behind me.” People are sensitive, you have to pay attention to it.
How did you pass the time while you waited outside?
Eddie: In a long line you have the ability to build relationships with people. If you have the chance to build trust and camaraderie —
Corrine: You don’t have to be best friends, just talk.
Eddie: Yeah, like, Where are you from? How did you hear about this? What’s your name? You build that and they’re like, I gotcha. The guy in front of us had no interest in personal relationships, he just wanted to get what he came for. He didn’t want anybody in front of him —
Corrine: He stood under other people’s umbrellas.
Eddie: Yeah, he was dirty. He was the type of person that no one would look out for. He didn’t have an umbrella of his own, he was real sneaky. That was real bad.
Corrine: Especially when you’re being nasty and selfish.
So, did you grow up with Chick-fil-A?
Corrine: I’m from Jersey, so I had it out of state traveling in Georgia or Florida.
Eddie: I’m from Chicago. My first experience was in Florida where I went to college.
Why were you willing to wait all night for this?
Corrine: Because it was something to do. I don’t know, it’s kind of fun. It’s Chick-fil-A, we like the food, we like the company. It’s cold, it’s rainy, but we met other people, you know, talked to them. It’s kind of a fun experience. It’s like going to Times Square to watch the ball drop.
Eddie: It’s a bucket-list thing. One of those things where you do it for the story. I just thought, I have a 33 percent chance of getting a ticket, but it’s a story to say that I did it. Chick-fil-A is one of my favorite fast-food restaurants. I don’t even consider it fast food, I don’t even put it in the same category as a McDonald’s or Burger King even though I know they are, but I’m a fan. I love everything on the menu, I love what they stand for, and I enjoy the food.
When did you decide, Okay we’re doing this?
Eddie: It was one of those where if they ever opened up a Chick-fil-A, I already know that I was going to participate in the “First 100,” because I was on the website and I saw they did it in other cities and states, so it was natural that I did it.
So would you have cared if you didn’t end up making the 100?
Corrine: Yeah, that’d be okay.
Fifty-two meals is a lot of fried chicken. Do you think you’re going to come here and use them all?
Eddie: Oh, I’m going to, every meal will be used.
Corrine: All of them. Bring a friend along. Give a homeless person a meal. I’m not coming here every week, maybe once a month, I’m trying to eat healthier. More vegetables, you know. So, occasionally, and treat a friend.
Eddie: Not one will be wasted.
What made waiting here all night worth it, though?
Eddie: New York is hard, rent is extremely high. It’s an expensive city, so any way you can get an edge, cut some corners, and save some money. One guy I saw had an EBT card. I knew he was enthusiastic about getting the prize because for him, yeah, I knew how badly he wanted it. It’s really tough. I work about six minutes from here. Manhattan lunches are $9, $10, $11. To get 52 free meals helps a lot. I think that’s the reason not only me but a lot of people stayed in line.