It is mid-afternoon Wednesday, and the parking lot at Vancouver’s Chick-Fil-A at the corner of 164th Ave. and Mill Plain Blvd. looks like a KOA Kampground. Scores of tents have been erected, as eager customers await Thursday’s 6 a.m. opening of the popular chicken restaurant.
One grand opening feature for all Chick-Fil-A is free meals for a year to the first 100 customers. Iit’s no wonder people began lining up as early as midnight Tuesday to get their shot at a year’s worth of free grub.
Technically, customers weren’t allowed on the grounds until 6 a.m. Wednesday, as three Hazel Dell men were told when they arrived at the new Chick-Fil-A at midnight Tuesday. The adventure started around 11 p.m., when Taylor Olson and Nick McRainey called their friend Matt Philibert.
“I was about to go to bed, and they said, we’re going on a camping adventure. Be ready in 20 minutes. I said, alright,” Philibert said.
Soon thereafter, Philibert found out he was headed to a Chick-Fil-A parking lot, not a campground.
“I didn’t even know what Chick-Fil-A was, but they said the food was good, so I thought, hey, OK,” Philibert said.
When they were turned away at the Chick-Fil-A parking lot at midnight, they went across the street to the Olive Garden parking lot and threw a football around for a couple hours. Then they sat on the sidewalk in lawn chairs until 6 a.m., when the restaurant parking lot opened. They stood alone, the first three in line, until 8:30 a.m., when others began arriving.
By early afternoon, more than 100 people were in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, their numbers secured.
McRainey is the only one of the three who had previously been to a Chick-Fil-A. But by early afternoon, those in line were being fed by the new restaurant. Olson and Philibert immediately understood why the food was so popular.
“Oh, my God, it’s delicious. I love it,” Olson said
Free food for a year sounds even better. The first 100 eligible adult customers will be given a digital card, loaded with free meals for a year.
“We’ll definitely be here a lot,” Philibert said.
Chick-Fil-A says it has given away some $27 million in its “First 100” promotion during the past 13 years of restaurant grand openings.
The Vancouver opening is the third in the Portland-Vancouver area during the past two years. The chain also has restaurants in Hillsboro and Clackamas in Oregon.
The Vancouver Chick-Fil-A is owned by John Dombrowski, who recently moved to Clark County with his wife Aubrey and three children. Dombrowski, an Air Force Academy graduate, has worked for Chick-Fil-A for the past five years.
The new Chick-Fil-A seats 110 customers, offers free wireless for its guests, and is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. All Chick-Fil-A stores are closed on Sunday.