Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

January 7, 2013

Chick-fil-A’s first opening of 2013 becomes a first for Cordele

1st 100 in line at Thursday’s opening win free year’s supply of Chick-fil-A

Cordele — Forty-five years after the first Chick-fil-A® restaurant opened in an Atlanta mall, pioneering mall food courts and introducing its signature boneless-breast-of-chicken sandwich, the chain will celebrate its first opening of the year in Cordele on Thursday when a free year’s supply of Chick-fil-A will be given away to the first 100 adults in line grand opening morning at the city’s first Chick-fil-A location.

Chick-fil-A’s “First 100 Celebration” quickly became a hallmark of each grand opening when the chain first held the event in 2003, in Arizona  More than 18 hours before the restaurant opened, the first person arrived and asked where to get in line. Since then, the chain has given away more than $18.1 million in free food at more than 680 grand openings. The parking lot parties attract Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers who come from around the block and across the country equipped with couches, TVs, computers, tents and other gear. Even extreme weather conditions do not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants who often arrive more than 24 hours in advance.

The latest Chick-fil-A First 100 celebration will occur at 1711 E. 16th Ave. in Cordele where the chain will award a one-year supply of free Chick-fil-A® Meals (52 coupons ) to each of the first 100 adults in line, ages 18 and older with identification — a total of more than $26,000 in free food. The line officially opens at 6 a.m. Wednesday with the free meal cards being awarded about 6 a.m. Thursday. The restaurant will open for business immediately thereafter. If there are more than 100 people by 6 a.m. on Wednesday, all 100 spots will be determined by a raffle held that morning with those selected still having to camp out the 24 hours to secure their spot. See http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Locations/First-100 for complete rules.

Cordele’s new Chick-fil-A restaurant brings with it more than 75 new jobs and features the chain’s latest interior and kitchen design along with dual drive-thru ordering lanes to expand its award-winning drive-thru service. Two drive-thru lanes with separate menu boards will welcome motorists who will place their orders at the separate screens and then merge into a single lane to pay for and pick up their food. With a majority of customers at Chick-fil-A stand-alone restaurants choosing drive-thru, the ability for two drivers to simultaneously order should mean quicker service.

The restaurant’s design and capacity illustrates the historic shift in consumer habits from 1967 when S. Truett Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant inside Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, to 2011 when the chain opened its 1,000th stand-alone restaurant with the majority of business now coming from customers on the go.

The new Cordele Chick-fil-A is the first of 102 new restaurants the chain will open across the country this year, creating more than 6,200 new jobs. In addition, the chain will demolish and rebuild five existing, older restaurants. Despite the challenging economy, Chick-fil-A continued to grow in 2012 with expectations of reporting its 45th consecutive year of sales growth since the company began in 1967.

“We are thrilled to open our first Cordele stand-alone restaurant as we continue to grow in our home state of Georgia and across the country,” said Dan T. Cathy, president and COO, Chick-fil-A Inc. “Our outstanding franchised operators and their team members provide both the freshly prepared food and excellent service on both sides of the counter that has our customers asking us to bring Chick-fil-A to where they live.”

Founder Truett Cathy perfected his recipe for a boneless breast-of-chicken sandwich while operating the Dwarf Grill which he opened in 1946, in Hapeville, Ga. The sandwich became the signature menu item when he opened the first Chick-fil-A, and it continues to be the hallmark product of the chain as it has grown to 1,685 restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C.

Franchised Chick-fil-A Operator MeriBeth McNeill has been selected to operate the new stand-alone restaurant in Cordele. McNeill first worked at Chick-fil-A while a student at the University of Georgia where she earned a degree in dietetics. She developed a love of the hospitality industry that brought her back to Chick-fil-A. Both McNeill and her husband Jess, a seventh-generation family farmer in Sumter County near Cordele, are thrilled to open the city’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant.

“Chick-fil-A has come a long way since Truett opened that first tiny Chick-fil-A restaurant in an Atlanta mall 45 years ago, but one thing has remained constant — our focus on providing top quality food in a friendly neighborhood environment,” said McNeill. “My team members and I share that commitment at our new restaurant and can’t wait to welcome past guests as well as introducing Chick-fil-A to many first-timers at our restaurant.”

The new restaurant seats 136 with additional outdoor seating and has warm colors and wood accents and convenient, award-winning drive-thru service. The new restaurant will have Wi-Fi and will be open from 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, serving a full breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Chick-fil-A continues to win industry accolades including coming out on top of the 2011 Top 10 Excellent Large Fast Food Chains survey by Sandelman & Associates. The food service consumer research firm measured responses from almost 108,000 quick service customers about food quality, customer service and restaurant environment. In addition, Men’s Health “Eat This, Not That” 2012 edition again gave the chain high marks (A-) and named it one of the top two restaurants providing healthier menu options. In 2011, Chick-fil-A also received Consumer Reports Top Chicken Chain for food and service.

Chick-fil-A continues to rank high in QSR Magazine’s annual Drive-Thru Performance Study which in 2011 was narrowed to only measure the six best, consistent brands in the drive thru. The “benchmark” brands, joined by one rotating regional chain, are measured in categories ranging from speed of service and order accuracy to customer service and cleanliness. In the 2012 study, which included more than 2,000 visits to restaurants around the country, Chick-fil-A was number one in order accuracy and had the friendliest service. The study also found Chick-fil-A team members displayed a “pleasant demeanor” 94 percent of the time, a full 14 percentage points above the next highest-rated restaurant chain.

In another study that analyzed 52 restaurants and was recently released by the research firm Technomic, Chick-fil-A was the only chain to rank in the top five of all six key categories in its 2012 Customer Restaurant Brand Metrics study. The firm polled 38,000 consumers in the categories they said mattered most — food, cleanliness, service, value, beverage and atmosphere.

For more information about the first Cordele Chick-fil-A restaurant visit  www.chick-fil-a.com/cordele or find the restaurant on Facebook.

 

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