Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local news

January 3, 2013

Chick-fil-A opening Jan. 10

Cordele — Forty-five years after the first Chick-fil-A® restaurant opened in an Atlanta mall, pioneering mall food courts and introducing its signature boneless-breast-of-chicken sandwich, the chain will celebrate its first opening of the year in Cordele on Jan. 10.

Franchise owner MeriBeth McNeill will award a free year’s supply of Chick-fil-A to the first 100 adults in line grand opening morning at the city’s first Chick-fil-A location.

Chick-fil-A’s “First 100 Celebration” quickly became a hallmark of each grand opening when the chain first held the event in Arizona in 2003.  

More than 18 hours before the restaurant opened, the first person arrived and asked where to get in line. Since then, the chain has given away more than $18.1 million in free food at more than 680 grand openings.

The parking lot parties attract Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers who come from around the block and across the country equipped with couches, TVs, computers, tents and other gear. Even extreme weather conditions do not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants who often arrive more than 24 hours in advance.

The latest Chick-fil-A First 100 celebration will occur at 1711 E. 16th Ave. in Cordele where the chain will award a one-year supply of free Chick-fil-A® meals (52 coupons ) to each of the first 100 adults in line, ages 18 and older with identification – a total of more than $26,000 in free food.

The line officially opens at 6 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9, with the free meal cards being awarded Thursday, Jan. 10, about 6 a.m. The restaurant will open for business immediately thereafter.

If there are more than 100 people by 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, all 100 spots will be determined by a raffle held that morning with those selected still having to camp out the 24 hours to secure their spot. See  for complete rules.  

Cordele’s new Chick-fil-A restaurant brings with it more than 75 new jobs and features the chain’s latest interior and kitchen design along with dual drive-thru ordering lanes to expand its award-winning drive-thru service.

Two drive-thru lanes with separate menu boards will welcome motorists who will place their orders at the separate screens and then merge into a single lane to pay for and pick up their food. With a majority of customers at Chick-fil-A stand-alone restaurants choosing drive-thru, the ability for two drivers to simultaneously order should mean quicker service.

The restaurant’s design and capacity illustrates the historic shift in consumer habits from 1967 when S. Truett Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant inside Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, to 2011 when the chain opened its 1,000th stand-alone restaurant with the majority of business now coming from customers on the go.

The new Cordele Chick-fil-A is the first of 102 new restaurants the chain will open across the country this year, creating more than 6,200 new jobs. In addition, the chain will demolish and rebuild five existing, older restaurants.

Despite the challenging economy, Chick-fil-A continued to grow in 2012 with expectations of reporting its 45th consecutive year of sales growth since the company began in 1967.

“We are thrilled to open our first Cordele stand-alone restaurant as we continue to grow in our home state of Georgia and across the country,” said Dan T. Cathy, president and COO, Chick-fil-A, Inc.

“Our outstanding franchised operators and their team members provide both the freshly prepared food and excellent service on both sides of the counter that has our customers asking us to bring Chick-fil-A to where they live.”

Founder Truett Cathy perfected his recipe for a boneless breast-of-chicken sandwich while operating the Dwarf Grill which he opened in Hapeville, in 1946. The sandwich became the signature menu item when he opened the first Chick-fil-A, and it continues to be the hallmark product of the chain as it has grown to 1,685 restaurants in 39 states and Washington D.C.

McNeill has been selected to operate the new stand-alone restaurant in Cordele. She first worked at Chick-fil-A while a student at the University of Georgia where she earned a degree in dietetics. She developed a love of the hospitality industry that brought her back to Chick-fil-A.

Both McNeill and her husband, Jess, a seventh-generation family farmer in Sumter County near Cordele, are thrilled to open the city’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant.

“Chick-fil-A has come a long way since Truett opened that first tiny Chick-fil-A restaurant in an Atlanta mall 45 years ago, but one thing has remained constant – our focus on providing top quality food in a friendly neighborhood environment,” said McNeill.

“My team members and I share that commitment at our new restaurant and can’t wait to welcome past guests as well as introducing Chick-fil-A to many first-timers at our restaurant.”

The new restaurant seats 136 with additional outdoor seating and has warm colors and wood accents and convenient, award-winning drive-thru service. The new restaurant will have Wi-Fi and will be open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving a full breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

In an effort to make the restaurant uniquely Cordele’s, McNeill is looking for photographs of the area that are suitable for framing. She is particularly interested in pictures of the farming countryside, Lake Blackshear and the Watermelon Festival.

Lunch and dinner menus in the local restaurant will include the original boneless breast-of-chicken sandwich, fresh fruit cups, freshly prepared salads, and hand-spun milkshakes available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies & cream and, for a limited time, peppermint chocolate chip.

The chain’s new dessert line includes a revamped Fudge Brownie, fresh-baked Chocolate Chunk Cookie, and an Icedream® Sundae that can be coupled with the brownie or cookie.

Chick-fil-A offers a completely trans fat-free menu and was among the first national fast-food restaurant chains to do so.

In 2012, Chick-fil-A introduced one of the most nutritious children’s meal combinations offered among any major fast food chain when it added grilled chicken nuggets and the choice of Buddy Fruits® Pure Blended Fruit To Go applesauce as a side to its Kids Meals.

The grilled nuggets, which are 100 percent all-breast meat chicken, can be paired with the applesauce or a fresh fruit cup and a choice of milk, apple juice or fresh squeezed lemonade. The nuggets, applesauce and fresh fruit also provide gluten-free options for children.


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