It’s been a while since Allen Kline has paid for a Chick-fil-A sandwich.
Three years ago, the St. Joseph, MO, resident went to his first Chick-fil-A opening and won coupons for 52 weeks’ worth of sandwich meals. He liked the event so much that he decided to hit up openings in towns across the Midwest. He drove seven hours for Thursday’s Maple Grove opening and won the free food contest for his 11th time.
“I always have coupons,” said Kline, who was first in line at Maple Grove.
The “First 100” contest is a staple of Chick-fil-A restaurant openings. With every new restaurant, the company gives the first 100 people in line one Chick-fil-A Meal per week for a year.
But unlike a black Friday sale, there’s luck involved. Participants have to arrive at the restaurant between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. the day before the opening. If more than 100 people show, the restaurant has a drawing to determine who gets to be among the first 100. Those who are chosen then have to camp out overnight. It’s not just about who arrives earliest.
“I guess I’m blessed,” Kline said.
Kline, who’s retired, made the haul from St. Joseph with his friend Richard Cunningham—and the team has a strategy. The Chick-fil-A website has a list of restaurant openings. Cunningham advises checking it every two weeks to stay on top where they’re happening.
They then select locations that give them the best chance for success. On Thursday, for example, there were openings in both Maple Grove and Coon Rapids. If they couldn’t win at one, they had a chance to win at the other.
States that are new to Chick-fil-A also hold promise because not as many people know about the contest. Maple Grove’s opening had only 42 people at the start, while Coon Rapids had 48, according to a company spokeswoman.
That’s given Kline a cache of coupons for free meals. But he doesn’t hog all the food for himself; he gives out the coupons as gifts. Last year, he gave 25 to his Sunday school class.
For Kline and Cunningham, the event is about more than just the food. It’s camaraderie and having fun.
“It’s a good time. There’s good fellowship. You visit with other people,” Cunningham said.