With a paperback copy of Colman Andrews’s “Ferran” under my arm and my head crammed full of anti-Chick-fil-A propaganda, I had little interest in visiting the chain’s fast-food truck today during its official debut. At least not in full view of the other trucks around Farragut Square, which had to resent the long line at the corporate newcomer’s vehicle.
But then one of the 11 — yes, 11, by my count — employees in or around the Chick-fil-A truck told me that they strive to have lunch in your hands within 30 seconds after you place an order. This was a dare that not even a pro-gay-rights liberal could ignore.
I placed an order for a chicken sandwich ($4.50 for a battered and fried slab of breast meat, which packs so much sodium it should come with its own beta blockers), coleslaw ($2, for a sugary side of ultra-minced cabbage that could be listed as a dessert) and chips ($1, more salt). Then I started chatting up one of the 11 employees, whose main responsibility, it seemed, was to pass out freebies and make customers feel better about ignoring the other trucks around the square.
We had barely exchanged two sentences before another one of the 11 employees handed me my three-item order stuffed into two separate bags riddled with logos and slogans and marketing pitches. It was like having Times Square shrunk to a handbag. Employee No. 6 (or was it employee No. 7?) reminded me to pick out my preferred condiments, because the sandwich is served naked, save for a couple of forlorn pickle chips hidden under the fried chicken breast.
Chick-fil-A has entered the D.C. food truck scene not to squash and dishearten the competition — or so said employee No. 1 who told me the corporate Chick-wagon wants to work with local mobile vendors — but to bring a taste of Chick-fil-A to the District. The nation’s capital, it appears, has only one lonely outlet within its borders, and that is a limited-hour location at Catholic University.
The net effect, however, was a total domination of the food truck scene at Farragut today, even though the Chick-fil-A vehicle had to delay its debut for a serious design change. Around 1:45 p.m. this afternoon, employee No. 1 told me that Chick-fil-A already had served about 400 meals, clearly leveraging its status as the No. 1 fast-food chain, according to a Zagat survey last year.
One wonders whether the brick-and-mortar community doesn’t take some warped satisfaction in seeing a fast-food chain, known for its sit-down service, beating the local food trucks at their own game.