If you're thinking of pitching a tent, floating in a kiddie pool or lounging on a couch while waiting in line Wednesday for the new Bellevue or Papillion Chick-fil-A restaurants to open, you wouldn't be the first.
The chicken sandwich chain has seen it all in the nine years it has celebrated its new restaurants by giving 52 free meal coupons, or a “year's supply,” to 100 of the first people to line up outside. But this is the first time a Chick-fil-A has held one of its “First 100” events on Halloween.
With people allowed to start lining up early Wednesday — 24 hours before the 6 a.m. Thursday grand openings — there may be an unusual number of people dressed in costume, perhaps as one of the chain's “chikin”-loving cows.
Just don't come as a giant chicken sandwich or you may not make it out alive.
Local Chick-fil-A fans have been hungry for the Atlanta-based chain's breaded chicken sandwiches since last December, when the company first filed plans to build in Papillion. Plans for Bellevue came next, and the two stores will open the same day, becoming Nebraska's first stand-alone Chick-fil-As.
Until now, Chick-fil-A sandwiches have been available only from an “express” outlet that opened in December inside the Mutual of Omaha Bank building.
If you hope to be among the First 100, it's not as easy as showing up and getting in line. To avoid huge crowds, Chick-fil-A has created some fine print: To participate, arrive between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday. Go to the registration desk to sign up. You must be 18 or older with a valid, government photo ID. If more than 100 qualified people are there, the restaurant will host a raffle to randomly select the First 100 participants. Those people must sign a liability waiver to be allowed to stay for the next 24 hours.
Participants are allowed to bring up to five guests, who have to stay in their “designated spot” until the opening, except for bathroom breaks. Even more rules are on the restaurant's website, so check them out before getting out of bed on a chilly Halloween morning.
The stores' owner/operators — Kyle Schisler at the Papillion location, 8710 S. 71st Plaza, and Tom Deall at the Bellevue store, 2016 Cornhusker Road — are planning activities to keep their crowds fed and busy until the restaurants open. There will be three meals a day — Deall said people will walk through his drive-through — plus hot chocolate at night, along with games, including pumpkin decorating and costume contests.
Deall said one person already is unofficially waiting around his store for the opening, a Florida man who travels all over the country to attend grand openings.
“We're expecting a very big turnout,” Deall said, “especially because we have the base population nearby and many of them are familiar with Chick-fil-A.”
Why are people willing to wait 24 hours in the cold for about $250 worth of chicken-and-waffle-fries meals?
It's not just the food, said Deall, who chose Chick-fil-A as a second career after retiring from the Air Force as a colonel.
“It's more of the environment that they love, being a part of the Chick-fil-A family.”
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