MIDVALE — As he tucked into a chicken sandwich and fries early Wednesday evening, Cody McMichael of Midvale was the picture of contentment — even though he'd had no sleep the night before, camped in a parking lot all day and faced the prospect of spending Wednesday night lying on asphalt in a rain-soaked tent.
It was worth it, he said, to be one of the first 100 "raving fans" to enter the new Chick-fil-A that opens today (Thursday) on Fort Union Boulevard.
"I got here at 4 a.m.," McMichael said as he ate dinner — his third Chick-Fil-A meal of the day — in the brand-new store, watching employees interact with customers for the first time. "I drove by a couple of times last night to see if anyone was here yet."
McMichael's friend, Chris Bradford of Taylorsville, said it was worth it to miss work and the normal routine to be one of the first 100 customers at the new restaurant.
"They just have the best customer service, and it's the best chicken anywhere," Bradford said.
Gene Parsons, owner operator of the new restaurant, spent 23 years in the poultry business in Pennsylvania before "retiring" to move to Utah and open the restaurant.
Parsons, a member of the LDS Church, said he became interested in becoming part of the Georgia-based restaurant chain after reading a book by Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy.
He said that, although the chain's staunchly conservative Christian values have brought it criticism, they also are the basis for its success.
"What makes Chick-Fil-A so unique is that we run our business on Biblical principles," the most famous of which is closing the restaurant on Sundays, Parsons said.
"The staff members we hire do second-mile service for our customers. We want our customers to feel as welcome as if this was their own home."
He said Wednesday's lucky first 100 were selected at 6 a.m., at which time there were nearly 150 people lined up. The chosen 100 were not allowed to leave the property for 24 hours, leading to a tent village that sprouted east of the restaurant.
Each camper received a Chick-Fil-A insulated mug, with beverages hot and cold provided throughout the day, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner on Wednesday.
In addition, Parsons said, a party complete with deejay and even a marriage proposal was planned for Wednesday night, and each of the "first 100" will get a free Chick-Fil-A meal once a week for a year.
That is, they'll get the meal as long as they don't come in on Sunday, he said: "That will never change."