The parking lot of the new Chick-fil-A restaurant resembled a football tailgate as fans wait in line to receive the free food giveaway. The first 100 adults in line will receive 52 free meal coupons. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

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Published 10:18pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Food giveaway kicks off new restaurant in Troy

The sounds of cheering, games and stereos could be heard all across the parking lot, but there wasn’t a football stadium in sight. College football ended weeks ago, but tailgaters converged on new ground in anticipation of the big kickoff.

Chick-fil-A, long associated with football in the South, is opening a new franchise on U.S. Highway 231 South in Troy, and giving away free food to loyal supporters. The first 100 adults in line prior to the restaurant opening its doors at 6 a.m. on Thursday will receive 52 free meal coupons. The meals consist of a Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, medium Waffle Potato Fries and medium drink.

The giveaway and new franchise opening attracted a crowd of fans from nine different states, with one travelling from Illinois to take part.

“I know we have a lot of support from the community,” said Jeff Koch, owner of the new franchise. “We have a lot of what we call ‘raving fans.’ It’s just not Troy out there. There are folks from six states. Those people are crazy, in a good way, for Chick-fil-A.”

In true tailgate fashion, those in attendance pitched their tents, set up the chairs and mingled around the parking lot sharing stories and laughs. Traditional tailgate games such as cards and cornhole were scattered throughout the camping area.

The lure of a good time, and free food was too much to resist for one college student from northern Alabama.

“This my seventh opening,” said Brian Davis, a student at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala. “I enjoy the free food, and kicking back and relaxing. I’m an Eagle Scout and enjoy the camping, especially when you have easy access to restrooms, outlets to charge your cell phone and games.”

In addition to the games and camaraderie, a live DJ will be in the parking lot on Wednesday evening to spin tunes for the campers and friends.

The campers received an armband upon arrival, with the first of the customers arriving well in advance. The restaurant will seat 100 patrons inside, and 20 outside on the patio seating.

The new restaurant also brings 80 new jobs to Troy, a community Koch and his family have close ties to. Koch met his wife while in college at then Troy State University. She was a member of the Sound of the South, and he was in the Air Force ROTC while enrolled.

The couple moved from Alexandria, Va. to begin what Koch called the “second half of my life.”

“I wanted to lead a team, I wanted to mentor and develop people and I wanted to be part of a community,” said Koch. “The Chick-fil-A opportunity really fit well into those parameters. When Troy was talked about as a possible place, we both got excited. It’s just the way God worked it out.”

The restaurant will be open from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and will serve breakfast until 10:30 a.m. daily.

Davis said that the atmosphere of the openings is one of the reasons he likes to attend, but also said that the free food is hard to ignore.

“The sauces and chicken here are the best,” said Davis. “I like to mix the honey roast barbecue sauce with ranch dressing, you can’t beat that. It is by far the best chicken.”

Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in Atlanta, Ga. in 1967 in the Greenbriar Mall. In the years since, the company has expanded more than 1,690 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C.

 

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