Make us your home page
Instagram

Customers camp out for 52 free-meal coupons from Chick-fil-A

TEMPLE TERRACE

Richard Coley eats at Chick-fil-A six days a week. He loves the food, obviously. But, even more, he loves the restaurant and everything it stands for.

"I like the fact that they believe in God and Christian principles and they don't compromise," he said.

The 62-year-old from St. Petersburg said he has traveled to more than 110 store openings nationwide for a chance to win a year's supply of chicken sandwiches, fries and a drink. On Wednesday, he went to Temple Terrace for the reopening of the store at 5302 E Fowler Ave. The drive-through-only location had been closed for four months and rebuilt as a standalone restaurant with seating for 100.

Coley arrived well before dawn with his 86-year-old mother to be among the first in line when doors open at 6 a.m. today. His T-shirt told of his allegiance: "Sunday follow me to church. Mon-Sat follow me to Chick-fil-A" — a nod to the company's 1,700 restaurants being closed on Sundays for religious reasons.

Like for all store openings, the Atlanta-based chain offered the first 100 customers a year's worth of food in the form of 52 meal tickets good any time. Devotees spent the day playing cornhole, four square and other group games led by Chick-fil-A employees in the parking lot.

To receive their prize, campers couldn't leave the property and had to live within 25 miles, a rule that applies only to certain grand opening events. Chick-fil-A provided food, sweet tea and the use of the restaurant's bathrooms. Rumor had it that store employees planned to throw stuffed cows from the roof.

Ethan Morency, 23, came at 4:30 a.m. for the lure of free sustenance. He lives nearby.

"It's about $350 worth of food, so to camp out for a day, it's not too bad," he said, adding that the Taco Bell next door delivered.

Devotees brought their tents, sleeping bags, Frisbees and extension cords for juicing up their laptops and iPhones. Some of the many college students carried books.

"I have nothing better to do on a Wednesday," said 20-year-old Akash Patel, who is studying computer engineering at the nearby University of South Florida.

John Yasenca, an unemployed truck driver from Clearwater, has been to so many grand opening events — he lost track at 60 — that a Chick-fil-A manager in North Carolina gave him his own employee name tag: Crazy John. He has so many free meal tickets, he can't possibly eat through them all.

Still, he keeps coming for more.

John Smeltz, 30, of St. Petersburg has been to 19 opening events for the fun and camaraderie of bonding over chicken. He also likes supporting a company that "stuck their necks out" for family values in its stance against same-sex marriage.

"You get here and 30 minutes later, you're best friends with everyone," he said.

He brought an air mattress — a must on the parking lot — and some extra provisions not on the daily menu: a head of broccoli and bunch of celery.

Truth is, as much as he likes Chick-fil-A, he said eating fast food all day long makes him sick.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Customers camp out for 52 free-meal coupons from Chick-fil-A 11/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 11:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Pete Coffee Tours offer a glimpse into the world of local craft coffee

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — What started as a small gathering of friends is now a growing business that has people hyped about St. Petersburg specialty coffee.

    At Craft Kafe, Jason Waits explains Kyoto-style drip coffee during a St. Pete Coffee Tour in May.
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Tuesday May 30

    Events

    Finding Neverland: The hit Broadway show follows the story behind playwright J.M. Barrie as he struggles to find inspiration to create Peter Pan, until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. 7:30 p.m., Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, …

    Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer and Ben Krieger as the Llewelyn Davies Boys in the National Tour of Finding Neverland. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  3. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  4. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    Soft pretzels are displayed with a beer at the Features Gastropub in the Riverview 14 GDX  theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  5. From the food editor: I love that food is a huge part of Master of None's transcendent second season

    Cooking

    Deep into a late-night binge of Master of None, Aziz Ansari's Netflix series that returned for its second season May 12, I realized I was laying as far back on my couch as possible, blanket clutched up to my chin, eyebrows permanently raised.

    Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Arnold (Eric Wareheim) eat lunch in Modena, Italy, in the second season of "Master of None."