Three Lessons We Can Learn From Chick-Fil-A's New York Debut

Two patrons take a selfie in front of the newly-opened NYC Chick-Fil-A. Credit: Atlanta Journal Constitution

When Chick-Fil-A announced that they would be opening their first ever New York City location, fans of the fast food giant were overjoyed to hear the company would be coming to the Big Apple. However, Chick-Fil-A knew that just a normal opening wouldn't be enough for their NYC debut. The organization launched a massive PR stunt to accompany their opening. The opening ended up being even larger than anyone expected with protesters, media coverage and patrons waiting overnight for free food; this event was the pure definition of a publicity stunt. While this approach definitely isn't for everyone, there are some lessons that can be learned from this massive PR event.

Promotional Events Should Have Some Type of Deal

If you want to get people in the door for promotional events or big openings, there has to be some type of deal behind it. For Chick-Fil-A, they do the same promotional deal for every store opening: they offer the first 100 people free Chick-Fil-A once a week for a year. This deal has become so popular that the franchise has started a lottery just to narrow down the first 100 for any given event. An organized promotion like this with all of the bells and whistles behind it to garner interest is a great way to get any new store opening off the ground with a bang.

Promising Free Giveaways Always Has Draw

Sometimes promising free items can be the key to getting people to show up for an event. There is a thin line between offering items for free just to get people to walk in the door and giving away free things to individuals that will actually become customers. For Chick-Fil-A, who already knows that they have a massive following around the country, offering free food was a great way to build excitement around their opening, as they already know that attendees will likely become repeat customers. The organization promised free food and they had individuals lined up overnight for the opening.

There Are Always Smart Ways to Counteract Bad Publicity

Chick-Fil-A has some strong religious ties, which has indirectly caused some controversy in the past. One such example would be their CEO making bold statements regarding gay marriage. The organization, like many fast food companies, has also come under fire from animal rights activists. Given these incidents, the franchise knew that a big opening in a city like New York would likely bring about protesters, so they quickly developed a plan to counteract the bad publicity they knew they would be getting. With their promotions and free giveaways, the fast food restaurant was able to conjure up a huge showing for their opening. Soon, much of the media attention shifted away from the protesters and activists and instead focused on the large crowds of individuals sitting in the rain waiting for chicken at 5 AM.

While there are definitely some aspects of the Chick-Fil-A New York debut that may be questionable PR moves, there are also plenty of lessons that any company can learn from them and their latest store opening in the Big Apple.