Crowds Show Up for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day
By Bill Hughes
PADUCAH, KY - Paducah's Chick-fil-A has been busier than normal on a Wednesday.
Mark Riley, operator of the Paducah Chick-fil-A restaurants, estimated the breakfast crowd to be twice the business of a normal day, but he knew it was coming.
"We had so much feedback leading up to this, and even before this, we knew that we were gonna be busier, because we've been busier ever since this controversy started. Plus all the people that have said they were gonna be here," Riley said.
Conservative talk show host Mike Huckabee decided that August 1 should be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, after company president Dan Cathey stood his ground in the controversy over corporate gifts to pro-family charities, which gay activists have vocally opposed. The Cathey family has always operated their business based on Christian principles, including closing 1,600 restaurants every Sunday.
Huckabee's event on Facebook had over 620,000 RSVPs Wednesday morning, while opponents have planned "Eat at KFC Day" as an alternative.
One customer named Michelle was looking at the larger than normal crowd in the restaurant with a curious expression on her face. She knew nothing about the Huckabee event, but said she comes to Chick-fil-A every Wednesday. When she was told why there was a crowd, she replied, "It's not just a normal Wednesday!"
Connie Adams, however, had more than food on her mind as she decided where she would eat breakfast. "I will eat here three times today," she said. "I think it's wonderful that a company would stand up and say that, and be closed on Sunday. I really admire them for that."
Other customers were overheard saying that they were eating at Chick-fil-A as a show of solidarity.
Riley said he had to schedule extra staff so they could handle the crowd, and just in case there were any protests or comments, he reminded them of the training they had already received.
"We told them that we want to serve everyone just like we normally do. We just want to take care of our guests, so we welcome everyone," Riley said.
Riley adds that for Paducah, the response has all been positive, but he knows it might not be that way in every location. He thinks it's about the issue more than it is about any particular restaurant.
"People are coming out to support traditional values - not necessarily Chick-fil-A - it's just kinda the way that they're doing it, you know. It's the opportunity for them to speak their minds, basically."
For now, Chick-fil-A happens to be the face of family values - whether you like them or not.