IMG_6189Droves of Chick-fil-A fans camped out the night before the Bellevue restaurant’s grand opening on April 9. The first 100 people in line for the grand opening would win a free meal a week for a year at Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A opened its first location in 1967 in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall. Truett Cathy, the company’s founder, invented Chick-fil-A’s boneless chicken sandwich and pioneered the mall restaurant concept. The fast food restaurant is known for its fried chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and hand-pressed lemonade, but the company was thrust into media spotlight in 2013 when its president spoke out against gay marriage.

The Bellevue location is expected employ about 85 people. Chick-fil-A has more than 1,900 restaurants in 41 states, and the Eastside location is the first of three in Washington, with Tacoma opening next week and Lynnwood following soon.

A media tour prior to the grand opening provided some insight into how the restaurant’s operations differ from many other fast-food chains. All of its produce for salads is delivered whole and prepped in-house. The Bellevue store (and other west coast stores) source potatoes and apples from Washington. The chicken is hand-breaded. Chick-Fil-A’s lemonade contains three ingredients (lemon, sugar, and water), and the store expects to go through about 2,000 lemons a day. Because of the fresh ingredients and minimal automated processes, diners can expect a slightly higher price point than other fast food restaurants.

Each Chick-fil-A restaurant is run by a single operator with the idea being that an individual has a better chance of building community if they are able to focus on one store. The new store’s operator is Valerie Artis, who moved to Bellevue with her husband and two sons in January.

“At the end of the day, I’m a family-first type of person,” she says. “Bellevue to me is the quintessential place to raise a family. I love the outdoors, my children love the outdoors. Academics is something my husband lives by, and Bellevue has amazing schools.”

Artis expects to connect with the community. She wants to be a champion for youth either through the school system, the Boys and Girls Club, or other organization.

Chick-fil-A Bellevue is located at 785 116th Ave. N.E. and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monday-Saturday.