Rockford’s first Chick-fil-A to open Jan. 23

Chick-fil-A fans at a First 100 event. (Photo provided)
Chick-fil-A fans at a First 100 event. (Photo provided)

Online Staff Report

Rockford’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant will open Jan. 23, bringing more than 100 new jobs and the chance for 100 adults to win free Chick-fil-A meals for a year.

Chick-fil-A’s “First 100” event, which began in 2003 as a way to celebrate the first stand-alone Chick-fil-A in Arizona, immediately became the cornerstone of every Chick-fil-A grand-opening when the first person arrived the day more than 18 hours in advance wondering where to get in line. Others soon followed, and by the time the restaurant opened for business the next day, more than 100 were waiting.

Humbled and surprised by the dedication of its fans, Chick-fil-A quickly implemented the “First 100” at every grand-opening, and in the past 10 years, has given away almost $21 million in free food at more than 750 grand-openings.

The new Rockford restaurant — in the Lowe’s parking lot at 280 N. Perryville Road — will be the scene of the latest Chick-fil-A grand-opening celebration. The first 100 adults, ages 18 and older with identification, in line when the doors open about 6 a.m. Thursday,
Jan. 23, each will win a one-year supply of free Chick-fil-A Meals (52 coupons with each consisting of a Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, medium Waffle Potato Fries and a medium drink) — a total of more than $30,000 in free food.

The line officially opens at 6 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22, with the free meal cards being awarded Thursday, Jan. 23, about 6 a.m. The restaurant will open for business immediately thereafter.

If there are more than 100 people in line by 6 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, all 100 spots will be determined by a drawing held that morning with those selected needing to camp out to secure their spot. For complete rules, see Chick-fil-A First 100 Promotion.

In conjunction with the First 100 celebration, the Rockford Chick-fil-A is partnering with Children’s Home + Aid Society to collect items needed by the Rockford agency, which provides a variety of services to families and children in nearly 60 Illinois counties. The 130-year-old society is especially meaningful to owner/operator Anna-Lisa Horton, whose family includes a 2-year-old son adopted as an infant through the agency.  She is inviting First 100 participants and local community members to donate wipes, diapers and non-perishable food items at the restaurant between Wednesday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 25. Wednesday, Jan. 22, First 100 participants can contribute to the effort by bringing items with them and encouraging others to donate in their name. The participant who has the most donations made in their name by 9 p.m. that night will receive an additional prize. Everyone who drops off items between Wednesday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 25, will receive either a free Chick-fil-A sandwich or a voucher to return for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich once the restaurant opens.

Chick-fil-A first entered the state more than 30 years ago, opening in Moline, Ill., at Southpark Mall. The new Rockford Chick-fil-A restaurant is the 27th for the state and the first of six Illinois openings planned in 2014. Other restaurants include sites in Elmhurst, firm for Feb. 6, and Willowbrook, with a tentative opening date of Feb. 13.

A native Australian with a degree in business communications from Queensland University of Technology in Australia, Horton and her family recently relocated to the United States for the second time after owning a beverage franchise. Horton’s talents have taken her outside the realm of owning franchises; her accent has landed her numerous voice-over jobs doing radio commercials and audio books. A Chicago Marathon runner and natural marketer, Anna and her husband James and their three children are excited to serve the community of Rockford.

Our focus on freshly prepared food and personal customer service is as central to our new restaurant as it was the day Truett opened his first Chick-fil-A location,” said Horton. “That commitment continues for me and my team members at our new Rockford location, where we can’t wait to continue welcoming and serving our guests in the community.”

The new restaurant seats 130, has warm colors and wood accents, and offers the convenience of free Wi-Fi. Along with featuring the chain’s latest kitchen design, the restaurant includes dual drive-thru ordering lanes to expand its award-winning drive-thru service. Two drive-thru lanes will welcome motorists who will place their orders at separate screens and then merge into a single lane to pay and pick up food. With a majority of customers at Chick-fil-A stand-alone restaurants choosing drive-thru, the ability for two drivers to simultaneously order will mean quicker service. The restaurant is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 6 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, serving a full breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m.

As part of the chain’s ongoing commitment to offer fresh, delicious and nutritious options, the restaurant’s menu will feature its new line of premium salads that are handcrafted onsite using top-quality ingredients and include Cobb, Asian and Grilled Market Salads and a Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap. For a limited time, the chain brought back its popular Chicken Tortilla Soup made with shredded breast of chicken, three beans and a blend of vegetables and spices and topped with seasoned corn tortilla strips.

Chick-fil-A continues to win industry accolades, including Men’s Health “Eat This, Not That” 2013 edition, which again gave the chain high marks (A-) and named it one of the top two restaurants providing healthier menu options.

For more about the Rockford Chick-fil-A restaurant, visit or on Facebook Chick-fil-A of Rockford.

Posted Jan. 22, 2014

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