Friday, February 14, 2014

Things I Learned Backstage . . .

Yesterday, I and 13 of my fellow homeschooling parents and kids took Backstage Kitchen Tours of our local Chik-fil-A. The owner, Tom Van Voorn, conducted the tours. He opened this Chik-fil-A just three weeks ago. Here are some things I learned Backstage:

  • Chik-fil-A's founder, Truett Cathy, opened his first restaurant in 1946.
  • At age 92, Cathy opened his "dream restaurant"--Truett's Luau--in Fayetteville, Georgia, in December last year. 
  • It took five years for Van Voorn to bring this location into operation.
  • Chik-fil-A does several studies before determining a location for a new restaurant. These studies include soil samples and demographic studies.
  • Van Voorn originally planned to open one restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, and two in Jefferson City, all within a month.
  • The price for the property in Columbia kept going up, so Van Voorn abandoned that idea. The original location for the second restaurant in Jefferson City was to be across from St. Mary's Hospital. St. Mary's upcoming relocation to a new facility changed those plans.
  • Construction took longer than expected. They went through several framing companies--some didn't show up to work and others didn't follow the blueprints.
  • The day before the Grand Opening, Van Voorn found out he needed a separate license to sell ice cream. Thankfully, it only cost $10 and was easy to obtain.
  • Chik-fil-A conducts what it calls the First 100 at each Grand Opening. In short, these 100 people camp out for the 24 hours before the official opening and receive one Chik-fil-A meal per week for a year.
  • This location's First 100 included people from as far away as Utah.
  • The First 100 event at this location occured on one of the coldest nights of the year.
  • Van Voorn provided a big tent and heaters to help keep the First 100 warm.
  • After being on and off the phone with his attornies and Chik-fil-A's public relations department, Van Voorn was told at about 9:30 p.m. to bring the First 100 inside for the night.
  • They stayed till 4:30 a.m. when they were ushered out so the restaurant could be cleaned and ready for the television and radio crews arriving at 5:15 a.m. for the 6 a.m. opening.
  • This location served 4,700 people on its Grand Opening day.
  • This location currently employs 101 people.
  • Seventy percent of its business is from the drive-thru.
  • All the food served at Chik-fil-A arrives fresh at the restaurant, except the chicken, which is frozen.
  • The chicken is all hand-breaded on-site.
  • The biscuits are made fresh every morning.
  • Lemonade is made fresh, on-site, every day from Sunkist lemons. Between five and 10 cases are cut and squeezed.
  • They use about 400 pounds of sugar every day--for sweet tea and lemonade.
  • Salads are prepared fresh after you order them.
  • A 500-pound tank behind the building provides the carbon dioxide for the fountain drinks.

These Backstage Kitchen Tours are free for the asking. They are limited to five people at a time and last five to 10 minutes.

Thanks, Tom and Chik-fil-A!

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