Tag: chick fil-a

Free food and decision making

Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck with jeans. Mark Zuckerberg wears a gray t-shirt everyday. Their reasons are the same. They don’t have to think about what to wear. They wake up and get dressed. No stressing about what to wear, what’s clean and what it matches. They get up, dress and get on with their day.

Alan Martin bought a 6-week pass to Olive Garden has the right idea when it comes to meals. Man eating nothing but Olive Garden speaks out: “I have not had one meal that was not just perfect”

I hate meal planning. I hate trying to decide on a menu the week before I eat it. Figuring out lunch is more taxing. If there are leftovers, I can take them. If we make a big batch of food during the weekend, there’s plenty for lunches. But most of the time, if we’ve eaten out or not made extra food, I have to decide what to take for lunch.

I’ll buy something either at the cafeteria at work or at a local restaurant but that gets expensive fast. If I think about it, I’ll make a sandwich the night before, or more rarely, the morning before I leave.

If I didn’t have to think about lunch or dinner, I would be in heaven. And while I love food, I can happily eat the same thing everyday. I’ve lived for weeks off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Having multiple jellies and jams helps, but I’m still a creature of habit when it comes to food. I’m too tired to think about what I want to eat. I just want something ready for me. If I had a job where lunch was provided, I would jump at the chance. If there was a platter of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided, that’d be perfect. I don’t need gourmet food. Just something to eat and get me through the day.

Alan Martin has taken advantage of this deal, which was only available to 1,000 people. He paid $100 for the card from Olive Garden.

It’s not about the food for him, it’s about the money.

I’m at about $1,600 in value and I’ve got four more days to try to get another couple hundred dollars out of the Olive Garden. Right now, I would really love to get to $1,800. If I could say I collected $1,800 in Olive Garden meals, that is big. I don’t know what city you’re in or anything, but in rural North Carolina, that’s a big deal.

That’s a big deal anywhere you are. And he’s not eaten every single meal he’s picked up.

Last week I was driving by and I stopped at a corner and a man was there, a homeless man with a sign and I said, “Come over here.” And he came over to the car and I opened the door—I’ve got a sliding glass door on my van—and I pushed the button to open the door and I said, “Get that Olive Garden bag. It’s got soup, spaghetti and meatballs, everything you need to have a great meal.” And he was so happy, and he took it and he went over and sat out in the woods and started eating that Olive Garden meal. I felt good about that, helping him.

In addition to handing some of them out, he’s been saving some for later. He’s able to pick up two meals on weekdays and three on the weekends.

I have been freezing some [meals]. I can’t eat ‘em all and they start stacking up in the refrigerator so I vacuum seal ‘em and I’ve got about thirty out there in the freezer that I will eventually eat.

That’s some major food storage and easy meals for later when they don’t feel like cooking or when money is tight.

Last year, during the government shutdown, I took part in Chick Fil-A’s First 100 event. Say what you will about their politics, I camped out at a store opening during October in Maryland. It poured rain on us for most of that time. The rules were we had to stay on the store’s premises but not inside the store (save bathroom use.)

So we huddled in tents and under umbrellas. What did I get out of it? I got three meals from the restaurant for the 24 hours I was camped out there.

But the main attraction was the “free meals for a year.” Which was 52 free meal coupons. This was good for a Chick Fil-A sandwich, waffle fries and a drink.

Then, for the next year my wife and I would walk in to the store, ask for “Two Number 1s” and hand over two coupons. I got a smile on my face watching the $12.xx reduce to nothing with the coupons.

My savings was only about $300. But for the weeks I was out of work, it gave us somewhere to go and get some free food. It was nice to get out of the house and have a meal out that we didn’t have to pay for.

They’re good for a year and we used our last two in September. This is my way of saying I absolutely understand where this guy is coming from and his desire to get as much out of this deal as possible.

I salute you Alan Martin. Collect your meals. Stash them away. Save yourself the money, time and decisions free food can offer.

Customer Service in the age of the rabid fan

Author’s Note: Nearly a year ago now, October 16, 2013 I camped out in a Chick Fil-A parking lot. I did this as part of their First 100 Event for new store openings.

I was out of work at the time, due to the government shutdown. I didn’t know how long it would last (15 days) or if I would be paid for any of it (I wasn’t).
But Chick Fil-A and their offering of 52 free meals for the next year and something to do for 24 hours, including three free meals during the event, was too good to pass up. I could stay home and not get paid, or I could go and try to be one of the first 100 people and have something to do for the next 24 hours.

This is not about Chick Fil-A’s policies. I wrote about that already this is a chance for an out-of-work guy to get some free food while the government tried to figure itself out.

For 24 hours, 100 people are camped out in the parking lot of a Chick Fil-A restaurant. They are all camping out for 24 hours to receive a year’s worth of weekly free meals to the restaurant. Is 24 hours of your life worth 52 free meals? For these 100 people, the answer is yes.

I am one of these 100 people. I am #94.

Chick Fil-A cup

I am camped out to receive my year of free meals. Why am I camped out in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant with 99 of my new best friends? For the free food. Also because it is a good story and I’ve met some interesting people. Including a duo of other furloughed NIH people. This morning we talked about how we were handling the furlough. How well, or not we were doing.

It was interesting to see how it affected each of us differently. I am OK for now with savings, but not if this stretches on another week or two. The older guy with a family and kids who lives in Pennsylvania and commutes to work here in Rockville is struggling. The younger, single woman is doing OK too since she’s got some money and it’s just her. They’ll both be getting paid once the furlough ends since they’re government employees.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen with my pay check come the 15th for sure. No one seems to have an answer because I’m not sure anyone knows…

This evening, we were treated to dinner inside the restaurant. With this being their grand opening and our camping out, the staff is getting their final training today as well. They were all on hand to help with dinner and the service was excellent. We are 100 strong and we’re cold and wet from the rain but we’re all in good spirits.

We are being fed for free inside a nice warm restaurant. We are all here by our own choice. We are here to get the free food offered to the first 100 people to show up and camp out for 24 hours. We are the rabid fans if there were ever such a thing.

This is my first grand opening event. But there are some who have done this many more times. This is grand opening number 13 for a couple I met this morning. Another person I talked to has been to three in total. The big winner is a friend of the first couple, who has attended 102 events. They are not here today because there’s another Chick Fil-A opening 40 miles from here and that one was closer for them.

But I digress.

Dinner service was very fast. It helps to have a limited menu. But it was still very fast. Especially considering I was near the end of the line, being #94 out of 100. I received my meal and every few minutes an employee would stop, introduce themselves and ask me if I needed anything else. Do I need my drink refilled? Any more sauce? Is there anything they could do for me?

It was clear they were directed to make us feel well taken care of and I did. It was better service than I’ve received in many fancy restaurants. Now, I know this is not the normal procedure for a fast food restaurant. Nor are there usually 40 people running around the place. But it set a great first impression of the store and the staff.

When I eat here in the future, I will remember the smiling faces I met today. It was a great first impression for the restaurant. Clearly, I am already predisposed to liking the franchise since I’m literally camped out in their parking lot, but it was still great customer service. I am here, I am being fed, you have me in a good mood. It wouldn’t take much to sour the experience for me with sub-par service or rude staff.

But instead, everyone I’ve met and talked to has been very excited and happy to be working here, even at 5:30 this morning and at 2am the following morning. Different, smiling people, but still smiling and friendly.

**Customer Service could have made or broken this event. ** It’s cold, the high was 62 with a low in the 40s. It rained from about 5pm through the night. People are cold and maybe rethinking their decision to be here. But they’re still here and the staff really made us feel welcomed.

This entire event is a huge opportunity to squander the good will you have built up among the loyal 100 people, as well as those who have wandered by to ask what was going on. But they’ve done a great job in meeting my high expectations and from the Chick Fil-A opening veterans, they consistently hit those high marks for customer service and the experience is always positive no matter where the store is opening or the weather decides to do.

Conversations and Consequences

This all started, as many things do, with a tweet.

It’s something I’ve thought a lot about but neglected to dip my toe into the pond on, partly because my own thoughts were still half-baked. I wanted to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.

Commentary tracks to our lives

Why can’t we just stay out of each other’s lives? That’s a question that’s been bouncing around my head a lot lately?

Is it because Reality TV shows have taught is it’s OK to turn someone’s life into a topic of public discourse? Is it because social media has opened the door to our lives in unprecedented ways?

Whatever the reason, the window has been smashed, the front door kicked down and our lives are now open for discussion. And that discussion is increasingly less civil and more angry.


We need to have conversations about our differences. But we’ve lost the ability to do so. In Trusting Others J.D. Bentley writes,

We’re unable to have proper discussions anymore. People these days are either incredibly apocalyptic or incredibly messianic, incredibly black or incredibly white. Instead of seeing disagreements in shades of gray, or as sound and unsound arguments, people look at the opposing side as the enemy not worth hearing out. They take an apocalyptic approach to diplomacy. The enemy can’t be talked to or negotiated with, only destroyed.
This is most evident today in conversations surrounding same-sex marriage, wherein opponents are cast as hateful and ignorant “bigots” regardless of the tack or reasoning employed and proponents are cast as pushers of a monolithic and mythological “gay agenda”. Both sides build very shallow stereotypes in order to assault the other. If your fellow man isn’t a man at all, but a self-made concoction of everything you hate, of course you’re going to say other people can’t be trusted. We like to see the best in ourselves and the worst in others.

Everyone who agreed with us is the ally and everyone who disagrees is the enemy. But it’s not true. We’re all people. We’re all products of our environments and upbringings. We’re all people. Right and wrong are variables. They’re not set in stone. That’s the beauty of beliefs. They can be changed over time. But not by screaming.

When anyone who doesn’t agree with you is the enemy it’s hard to have a dialog. It’s no wonder our politicians can’t get anything done. They shout at each other from across an aisle. That’s how we interact with each other these days.

We’ve forgotten how to converse.

One thing I cherish is a good, conversation with someone I don’t agree with. A well-reasoned, thoughtful discourse on a topic. The goal is not to change their minds. Nor should their goal be to change mine.

Our mutual goal is to share where we’re coming from so we can be closer as people. And to hone our own beliefs by examining them and making them our own. If one of us has a change of heart as a result, that’s an unexpected bonus. Not a stated goal.

But it’s harder and harder to have such a conversation, especially online, even in less-public forums. It is not my goal to convert you to way of thinking. Just to share what I think.

Corporations are people.

Like it or not, if you’re the CEO or President of a company. You’re the public face of that company. And just as our private lives are open to scrutiny, so too are our public actions.

A company is made of people. And those at the top make up the company’s image. There is no longer a divide between who makes up a company and the company’s image.

Chick Fil-A is now Hate Chicken after the President and CEO spoke out against gay marriage. The company quickly deleted it and PR took over. But the damage was done. A controversy raged for weeks with people calling for boycotts of the restaurant and others rushing to defend it resulting in a record-setting sales day. By March 2014, the company had stopped funding anti-LGBT groups.

Despite the reversal in funding and public image, once branded, it’s very hard to remove the image from a company still run by the same man who made the original statements. Another company is having the same problem.

Mozilla, makers of the Firefox web browser, is just the latest in a line of companies that are learning an important lesson.

You can have your own beliefs. And you can spend your money where you want. But if you’re the head of a company, your views are going to be attached to that company. You are not an island. You are the leader. Your head is on the chopping block and what you say and do matters.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion

Is the head of Chick Fil-A able to be sad about gay marriage passing? Sure. Is the head of Mozilla’s donation supporting Prop 8 in California well within his right? Absolutely. They’re entitled to their actions and those actions have consequences.

But Chick Fil-A is going to be branded as Hate Chicken and lose business by those who won’t support those views. Mozilla has already had people step down because they won’t work for the newly-appointed CEO. As the leader of a business, your actions can hurt that business even if it has nothing to do with the business directly.

Let’s Play A Game

Gay marriage is a hot button issue. There’s no quicker way to get blood boiling. Let’s move it out of that realm into another one. How about something we’ve solved long ago? What about racism? That’s over right? Or women’s rights? How about Christianity? This is the land of the free isn’t it?

Let’s take this article and rewrite it’s headline.

Mozilla Staff Urge Their CEO To Step Down Because He’s Anti-Black.

Mozilla Staff Urge Their CEO To Step Down Because He’s Anti-Women.

Mozilla Staff Urge Their CEO To Step Down Because He’s Anti-Christian.

Mozilla Staff Urge Their CEO To Step Down Because He’s Anti-White.

Would any of these be OK to say? If a CEO of a company came out and said these things, would that be OK with you? Not if you don’t agree with it.


The fight for marriage equality is racism all over again. This is not to say racism is over and dead. Because it’s not. But this is the same battle. It’s just harder to see who the enemy is because they’re not conveniently a different color.

While I don’t agree with those who are against equal rights for everyone. I respect their difference of opinion. I respect that in this country we’re allowed to have differing opinions. That’s what this country was founded on. Freedom.

We’re allowed to disagree but when you voice and opinion or give money towards a way of thinking you’re accountable for that opinion. When you give money to support Prop 8, you’re going to lose support from those who aren’t with you.

When you give money to groups looking to keep people from marrying, those who want to marry and those who support their fight are going to stop supporting you.

In your private life, you can do and support what you choose. But when you’re the head of a company and your actions are public, does that change? No. You can still do and say what you like.

However, when you’re the head of a large group of people, not all of those people are going to agree with you. And to those outside the group, it may seem that the group mirrors those beliefs.

What you say matters

Everyone is accountable for their own actions and statements. I’m allowed to say and do what I feel. But I also know that those actions and statements don’t exist in a vacuum. They matter. They can hurt. They can help.

We’re allowed to disagree. We’re allowed to have our beliefs and support what we want. But don’t be surprised when your beliefs aren’t the beliefs of everyone. They’re allowed to the same rights as everyone else.

The CEO of Mozilla can choose to spend his money to prevent gay marriage. Those working for Mozilla can choose to speak out against that and the organization. They can also choose to resign and work elsewhere.

Chick Fil-A’s CEO can do the same. And as a result, he will draw protests and supporters. His profits will rise and fall.

What we say matters. And when you say it from a position of leadership, what you say reaches far and wide. Actions have consequences.