Brilliant idea, but for who?  By Rob Marchalonis.


We could have seen this storm coming.  When the local Chick-fil-A offered a “free meal a week for a year” to the first 100 customers on opening day, was anybody surprised by the response?  In short order, 100 early-birds and 10+ alternates set up camp for the 24-hour wait.  Sub-freezing temps and a cold January wind didn’t chill the participants, some of which used a vacation day.

Given the spectacle and varied media coverage, this appears to be a smart (and relatively inexpensive) way to let the community know that dinner is ready at Chick-fil-A.  As for the campers, I’m not sure.  Let’s look quickly at the math:

  • 52 meals x $10 each (estimated) = $520 consumer value
  • 100 “winners” x $520 = $52,000 market value
  • $52,000 x 50% cost of goods (estimated) = $26,000 CfA cost

Given the numbers above, looks like this was a more strategic (vs. tactical) decision for everyone involved.  Will Chick-fil-A get it’s money’s worth from the PR and 100 visitors a week?  Will the meal winners find a weekly trip to CfA worth their time, transportation cost, and additional spend?

Maybe the cows are the biggest winners.

[If 100+ people will camp for 24 hours in the freezing cold for about $500, what would your employees do for even less, or much more?  No complex analysis or fancy focus groups needed to answer this one because Chick-fil-A is giving you shivering proof that incentives that are smart and innovative as well as relevant and generous can drive amazing (and sometimes unusual) human behavior.  Let me know what incentives you are using or contemplating and how I can help.]