Andrea Mendoza, Reporter
Chick-fil-A officially opened its doors Feb. 9. Located at 104 39th Ave. SW. in Puyallup, this establishment is the second in Pierce County and the fourth Washington location for the Atlanta-based company.
“I’m so excited for Chick-fil-A,” student Diego Ramirez said. “It’s gonna be fried chicken awesomeness.”
On Feb. 8, more than a dozen pitched tents were spotted in the parking lot of the soon-to-open Chick-fil-A, waiting to be part of the first 100 customers. As tradition goes, the first 100 customers to attend the grand opening of a Chick-fil-A establishment are awarded a gift card for 52 free combo meals.
“I had heard about that whole free food thing,” student Morgan Frank said. “I told my boyfriend so we could go do it, but he didn’t want to camp out in the snow.”
The first 100 began lining up at about 6 a.m. while more people continued to arrive later in the day. As people endured the weather, the restaurant offered free hot coffee and entertainment via a sound system and emcee.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for free chicken,” Chick-fil-A camper Daniel Gonzales said.
As Chick-fil-A enthusiasts waited patiently outside, scores of new employees were trained in various parts of the restaurant. The Puyallup location will employ 120 part- and full-time workers of varying ages. Mike Lehman, owner of the Puyallup location, is a former career Navy officer who worked as a nuclear engineer and surface warfare officer.
According to Chick-fil-A’s website, the company’s highly selective of who gets to open a franchise. The franchise goes through an 18-month selection process to ensure that they’ll meet Chick-fil-A standards.
Not including Puyallup, there are three other establishments in the state, located in Bellevue, Lynnwood and Tacoma – although the company plans to expand by as many as 10 more in the region. The scarcity of establishments has driven up local demand for the food chain’s chicken. Local police had to monitor traffic at the Bellevue location when it opened in 2015 to control congestion.
“Meridian is so terrible, I try to avoid it all the time,” student Dylan McCormick said. “I’m pretty sure it’s going to be even worse when Chick-fil-A opens up. That was the worst spot to put it in, in my opinion.”
The intersection of 39th Avenue Southwest and South Meridian Street (State Route 161) might be the most congested intersection in Puyallup. The City of Puyallup is requiring Chick-fil-A to hire traffic controllers to help ease congestion. A company spokesman confirmed that the restaurant has hired off-duty officers to help mitigate traffic.
“The city is currently fine-tuning the details of that traffic control plan,” Development Services Director Tom Utterback said. “That plan will be required to be in effect until such time as the city traffic engineer has determined that the initial crowds have subsided to a point that standard traffic measures are sufficient.”
As part of Chick-fil-A’s mission to help out in the community, the new establishment volunteered to make 10,000 meals for the Feeding Children Everywhere charity. Of the first 100, about 20 volunteered to make meal kits to distribute them locally.
“I think it’s nice that Chick-fil-A is helping the community,” student Katherine Valdez said. “With the homeless issue we have going around, it’s important that people see that big establishments are helping out too.”
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