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October 30, 2014 at 6:15 AM

Chick-fil-A planning three Washington restaurants

AP file photo/Mike Stewart

AP file photo/Mike Stewart

Chick-fil-A is coming back to Washington state.

The Southern fast food company held groundbreaking ceremonies this week for new outlets in Bellevue, Lynnwood and Tacoma. If all goes as expected, they’ll open in the spring.

The Bellevue branch at 715 116th Ave. N.E. will seat 48 inside and have outdoor seating for 46. A big Lynnwood branch at 3026 196th St. S.W. will seat 124 inside with 16 outdoor seats. Tacoma’s branch will be at 3902 S. Steele St., also with 124 seats inside, plus 8 outside. All three locations will have drive-throughs. The franchises are among roughly 100 new outlets expected to open nationwide in 2015.

Potential customers have already found Facebook pages for the new branches. They write that they’re dreaming of orders like “chicken strips, waffle fries, lemonade, and a nap,” familiar sentiments for a chain where Forbes once said fans are “inspired to camp out so they are first in line when a new restaurant opens.”

They will be the state’s first branches since a Chick-fil-A at Western Washington University in Bellingham closed.

Interest in the openings has been at In-‘n-Out levels of intensity.

“We’re really excited to finally be here,” said Blake Goodman, the company’s director of real estate.

“We don’t borrow any money, so we grow carefully and confidently, we don’t try to grow too fast. That’s why it’s taken us so long to get to the Seattle area in the first place,” he said.

Why establish the first locations outside of the city limits? Because of the chain’s drive-throughs, which bring in about 60 percent of business.

“If you tried to put a drive-through in downtown Seattle, it really just doesn’t fit,” Goodman said. The new locations were intended to “make sure geographically we covered as any people as we could” in the Puget Sound area, he said — and there are several more already in the works.

It’s part of a big expansion push from the chain “as well-known for its conservative heritage as its savory eats,” as USA Today put it. The company made headlines in 2012 when an executive made public statements opposing same-sex marriage, he’s since backed away from the practice, telling the paper that “All of us become more wise as time goes by.”

The company’s also leaning toward greener foods and practices, promising to phase in antibiotic-free chicken meat, to pilot a foam cup recycling program in the new LEED -certified
stores, and to source more food from local suppliers. The chain already uses Washington apples for all its Western region stores — buying more than 2 million pounds last year — and sourced 438 million pounds of potatoes from the Columbia Basin for its waffle fries and hash browns. “We’ve been investing in the state for a very long time” without being able to serve those ingredients back to Washington customers, Goodman said.

Want to get a taste of what the fuss is all about? J. Kenji Lopez-Alt reverse-engineered a home version of the “salty, crispy, moist, pickle-laden” Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich over here.

Comments | Topics: Chick-fil-A


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