Vancouver’s second Chick-fil-A restaurant debuted Thursday morning, greeted by an initial line of several dozen customers hungry for the chain’s signature chicken sandwiches.
The new location is in a satellite building at the Vancouver Mall and is a franchise location owned by John Dombroski, who also opened Vancouver’s first Chick-fil-A at 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard to great fanfare in 2016.
That event drew a crowd of overnight campers leading up to the opening hour, in part due to the chain’s traditional grand opening promotion in which the first 100 customers are treated to free meals for a year. Things were a little more low-key this time around, which Dombroski said was deliberate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chick-fil-A opted to forgo the usual promotion for the opening of the mall location and will instead be doing an event to support first responders. The restaurant is initially operating solely as a drive-thru, he said, and only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the time being. Walk-ups, delivery orders and expanded hours will be added in the coming months as more staff are brought on board and operations stabilize.
The slow burn approach allowed Dombrowski to hire fewer staff at the outset and rotate them all through for training at his other Chick-fil-A location. But despite the relatively lower hype, Dombrowski said he still prepared for a crowd of Chick-fil-A enthusiasts on Thursday.
Safety cones were placed to extend the end of the drive-thru line, snaking back and forth across a nearby portion of the mall parking lot. Staff with tablets stood at multiple places along the line to take orders and process payments, so that the only thing left to do at the actual restaurant window was to pick up the food.
There were about 30 cars waiting in line in the final minutes leading up to the 11 a.m. opening. Two cars were tied for first in line due to the building’s two-lane drive thru. In one car, Keith Hallett of Vancouver said he’d been waiting since about 7 a.m., in part because he’s a fan of Chick-fil-A but also because his grandson works at the store.
In the next car over, Ken and Kathy Haider of Vancouver said they’d also been waiting for most of the morning, and considered themselves Chick-fil-A aficionados, drawn in by the chain’s friendly atmosphere and menu variety.
“We were one of the first 100 at the original (in east Vancouver),” Ken Haider said.
The Chick-fil-A is the second restaurant to open in a new satellite building that the mall completed last year. The first tenant, a Five Guys Burgers and Fries Restaurant, opened in the fall. Chick-fil-A had originally been targeting an opening date earlier in 2020, Dombroski said, but the pandemic slowed down the buildout process enough that he decided last summer to aim for January instead.
Dombroski said he also decided at that point to open only for drive-thru service initially, so Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of a ban on indoor dining in November didn’t affect the restaurant’s opening plans.