Cold temperatures, rain and snow won’t stop a crowd from camping out overnight for free fried chicken sandwiches.
“I thought it would be exciting, but then I realized it’s freezing,” said 11-year-old Carter Atwell.
Carter and his dad, Ben Atwell, 30, showed up at 2 a.m. Wednesday — early enough to get one of the 100 gift cards the franchise said it would be giving away at 6 a.m. Thursday.
The cards are good for 52 meals for the year to local residents over 18, according to franchise owner Mike Lehman.
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“I’m just thrilled to see them out there ... braving this kind of weather,” Lehman said, as he looked outside where around 40 people were gathered in a steady rain. Snow surrounded the parking lot campground where more than 15 tents were pitched.
The Chick-fil-A restaurant at 104 39th Ave. SW, Puyallup, is the second in Pierce County. It will be the fifth Washington location for the the Atlanta-based chain.
When the new restaurant opens, the Atwells will have camped for more than 28 hours to earn free meals. Atwell and his son said they have been planning to camp out for the grand opening for several months as a bonding experience.
“I’m a dedicated man,” the older Atwell said.
The customer service supervisor said he is considering using some of his 52 free meals to feed his team from work.
The Atwells were introduced to the restaurant last year by friends who took them to the opening of the franchise in Tacoma. They huddled with their friends under a canopy, sitting on camp chairs, in the parking lot outside the restaurant.
“They got me hooked on it,” Atwell said.
The group pitched a separate two-person tent just for their sandwiches, chips and water, and kept themselves warm by walking around.
“I got my snow gear on,” Atwell said.
Next door to the Atwells, Charles Gore stood sipping a hot beverage.
The 50-year-old software engineer took the day off from work for the restaurant opening. He brought his rain coat just in case the rain picked up.
“I could have worked from the tent, but it’s not as fun,” Gore said.
Of the items on the menu that Gore likes, he pointed out “the crushed ice in the soda” and “I love all things spicy.”
He said he remembers early experiences visiting the restaurant in Virginia in the 1980s.
Many of the people waiting said they’ve been going to Chick-fil-A for years — often in out-of-state franchises. They say the cleanliness of the restaurants and fresh ingredients keep them loyal.