Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy plays reveille to wake up the campers at the Brainerd Village location.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- One may not have recognized the pre-dawn bugler in his cold weather gear, but a closer look would reveal Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy. He broke out his trumpet to blow a proper reveille for some hundred or so campers at his new restaurant in Brainerd Village.
The chicken fans had been out there overnight. "When you're in college, you've got time for this," joked Isaac Leimeister. The point of this outdoor sit-in? The first hundred customers get 52 coupons for meals; in effect, a year's worth of free chicken. These Chick-fil-A grand opening events have even spawned groupies. Leimeister is from Knoxville and this is his second. "My wife came with me this time because I told her how awesome it was last time," he gushed. "We get to come out here, hang out with people we don't know. We met two random people, played Monopoly all night. Had a lot of fun!"
"They do an awesome job," said Ryan Hutto. "They bring out games out here, bring out a DJ; just a lot of fun. So, they make it more of a party atmosphere. So, it's not just hanging out in the freezing cold." This was his fourth overnighter. Hutto drove over from Starkville, Mississippi.
What Dan Cathy calls an 'all-night street party' included dancing, food, and attracted a few newbies, too. "I'm used to camping," said Trey Walker, "but I've never, like, camped in a parking lot before." Walker was a first-timer with some veterans from Knoxville and immediately became a fan of the company president. "Got to meet Dan Cathy, have a personal tour with him of the kitchen," he explained. "And he talked to us for a while and he even let me make my own Chick-fil-A ice cream cone!"
"We like to go over the top for them; make sure they have a good time, enjoy themselves," said Dan Cathy. "As a result, that's the reason people keep coming back again, and again, and again." It is not a theory. This event is one of four on this day, alone. New stores are opening in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and also in Utah and California this morning. They will each welcome fans of all shapes, sizes, and ages, and Cathy takes great pride in every one. "We have one couple in Virginia that's in their 70's," he said, "and they've done 90 camp outs. So, what I call optimism is when they're in their 70's and you've got 90 more years of Chick-fil-A sitting in your closet. That's a good deal! That's gonna be quite an inheritance for somebody."
Many were there to support Cathy and his company which were thrust into the culture war, last year, after Cathy made comments concerning his personal beliefs on homosexuality in a radio interview. "Chick-fil-A is amazing, just what they stand for," said Ryan Hutto.
And that's okay with Cathy. "The real purpose of Chick-fil-A is what we call our Chick-fil-A corporate purpose. And it says this: That we're here to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that's entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
But, the cold night and early morning were also a having a good time, and winning the free chicken. "The last 'year-long' lasted me about a month and a half," Leimeister said. "So, probably another month and a half, I'm gonna need to go do this again."