‘First 100’ hit Chick-fil-A in Chicago Ridge
By Steve Metsch email@example.com September 26, 2013 11:42AM
Updated: October 3, 2013 11:20AM
At 5:30 a.m. Thursday in a parking lot in Chicago Ridge, Matthew Smith was packing up the tent he and his son John, 5, and friends had slept in the night before.
“I slept pretty good. I tried a new cot for the first time instead of an air mattress, and it worked out pretty well,” Smith said.
“It’s always interesting sleeping under these lights. It doesn’t look like it’s dark out from inside the tent. And there were some people (driving down Ridgeland Avenue) yelling profanities.”
Overall, however, he said “it was worth it.”
Smith and 100-some others had camped out in the lot south of Chick-fil-A, 9600 S. Ridgeland Ave., on an out lot of Chicago Ridge Mall.
Their quest? Getting 52 free meals each.
The first 100 chosen at random from 150 hopefuls early Wednesday had the chance — provided they stayed on the premises for 24 hours — to get vouchers for 52 free meals at any of the chain’s 1,753 locations nationwide.
Smith had drawn No 103 in the random drawing at 6 a.m. Wednesday. He was an alternate but was soon thanking his lucky stars. Enough people had dropped out to allow him to move up to No. 100.
He smiled broadly beneath his faded blue Kansas City Royals visor when owner-operator Peter Glanvill, of Oak Lawn, handed him the coveted box of vouchers.
“I got it!” Smith said.
There were many smiles on the sleep-deprived faces when the doors opened at 6 a.m.
The 100 filed in as employees cheered and banged loudly upon cooking utensils while Glanvill greeted each customer with a handshake and robust “congratulations.”
The man first in line was Tim Chaney, 50, of Fort Wayne, Ind., who brought along his son Adam, 24.
“It’s fun (camping out), as long as it’s not too cold,” Chaney said, adding that he is a big fan of the restaurant chain founded in 1946 by S. Truett Cathy.
“The food is really good, but customer service and quality are the two most important parts of any business.”
“Anytime I go to one — we have one in Fort Wayne — I enjoy being there,” said Chaney, who was among the “First 100” in Muncie, Ind., in August.
Glanvill, 51, who moved to America 16 years ago from his native South Africa, is new to the restaurant business.
He previously worked in residential property management, but became “very intrigued with the business model” after learning more about Chick-fil-A.
“People asked how I slept last night. Like a baby, I woke up every couple hours,” Glanvill joked.
“I’m looking forward to being invested in the community,” said Glanvill, who is on the Chicago Ridge-Worth Business Association board.
Glanvill said he has received “great support from (Chicago Ridge) Mall, lovely guys” and management of stores like Sears, Home Depot and Kohl’s.
He hired 82 employees from 1,300 applicants.
Colleen Foote, 27, of Chicago’s West Lawn community, was one of those hired. She happened to be driving to the mall one day when she saw a sign seeking job applicants.
“I needed a job. The energy is great here. I’m excited,” said Foote, who has worked in food service.
Glanvill said he likes Chicago Ridge because “it reminds me of home. It’s such a diverse community.”
The restaurant is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
“It gives us time to rest,” Glanvill said.
Indoors, there is seating for 132 people and a children’s play area. There are 20 seats outside.
There is also a drive-through window, and catering is available.
Around 7 a.m., Linda Ilkanic, of Crestwood, and her son Mike pulled up for breakfast. It was Mike’s first time, but his mother is a frequent visitor to the Orland Park Chick-fil-A.
They and other Chick-fil-A fans can take note that a new restaurant is scheduled to open in Vernon Hills in November, company spokeswoman Tiffany Simmons said.