NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—In Rock Hill, S.C., Wednesday, customers were waiting 75 minutes for a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, when they could have driven down the road to McDonald’s and been in and out in five minutes.
It surely seemed strange to at least a few observers, but the folks in Rock Hill—and at jam-packed Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country—were making a statement, standing up for a chain that has been criticized by media members, politicians and activist groups because of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s support for the biblical definition of marriage.
“Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” as organizer Mike Huckabee called it, may have been more successful than even he envisioned. More than 650,000 people had signed up on Facebook to participate, and it seemed that each one came—and brought a friend.
In Clarksville, Ind., the parking lot was packed, and cars were parked in the adjacent Lowe’s lot. In Kansas City, Kan., a line of at least 50 people stretched outside the doors. That was also the case in Nashville, Tenn., and Ontario, Calif. And in Chicago where local politicians had spoken against the restaurant, dozens stood outside the doors, waiting just to get inside. At some Chick-fil-As, such as in Dyersburg, Tenn., the number of people in line outside the doors was 100 or more.
In some locations, police were on location to direct traffic, with cars backed up on main roads. Churches, too, were getting involved. In Salisbury, N.C., Cornerstone Church cancelled its Wednesday evening services so members could support the restaurant, the Salisbury Post reported. But at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.—as well as at a host of other congregations—church officials ordered Chick-fil-A food to serve at their weekly Wednesday evening meal.
For most if not all day Wednesday, #chickfila trended on Twitter. Some people pledged to eat at the restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president for marketing, said in an Aug. 2 statement at the company’s website, “We are very grateful and humbled by the incredible turnout of loyal Chick-fil-A customers on August 1 at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country.”
Robinson said Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day “was not a company promotion; it was initiated by others. He acknowledged, “While we don’t release exact sales numbers, it was an unprecedented day.”
“We congratulate local Chick-fil-A Owner/Operators and their team members for striving to serve each and every customer with genuine hospitality,” Robinson said. “The Chick-fil-A culture and 66-year-old service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect—regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
Heading into the day, Huckabee said the event was not about gay marriage—as some had made it to be—but about free speech and religious liberty. A business owner, he said, should be able to state basic Christian beliefs without being castigated. He stood by that on his radio show Wednesday.
“We’re finding out that people in America still believe that every American—every American—has a right to an opinion,” Huckabee said on his radio program. “You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to like it. But you ought to respect that people have that wonderful right. You don’t have that in North Korea. You don’t have it in Iran.
“And I guess if the mayors had their way you wouldn’t get it in Boston, Washington, Chicago or San Francisco,” he added, referencing city mayors who have spoken out against Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A, which has more than 1,600 restaurants, long has had a passionate base, led in part by families with young children who appreciate family nights and indoor playgrounds available at various locations. Support also is strong among Christians who support the company’s values and the fact it is closed on Sundays. Of course, people also enjoy the food.
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