Chick-fil-A lovers pass Cow Appreciation Day through generations
Posted July 12
Lawrenceville, GA — Every July, the Cruz family transforms into black-spotted cows and stampedes to a Lawrenceville Chick-fil-A for Cow Appreciation Day.
On Tuesday, they added an 11-month-old baby calf to the mix.
"It's his first time," said Flor Cruz, handing her baby brother, Marcos Cruz, a signature waffle fry. "He seems to like it."
It's a big first for Marcos and the Cruz family. For them, like many others who popped into Gwinnett Chick-fil-A stores draped in cow apparel on Tuesday, Cow Appreciation Day is an event they look forward to all year long.
"We love it," Flor said. "We came last year. We come every year."
Sharon Crosby works as the restaurant marketing director of the Chick-fil-A on Pike Street and another on Suwanee Road. She said the Cruz family's reaction to the chain's cow-based event isn't unusual.
"Oh, the customers love Cow Appreciation Day - especially the kids," Crosby said.
She's been working for Chick-fil-A for 20 years. For the past 13 years, Crosby has seen repeat success out of Cow Appreciation Day. The event began in 2005, ten years after the chain launched its now famous "Eat Mor Chikin" cow marketing campaign.
The idea was simple - customers who dressed up as the iconic bovine characters received a free entree or kids meal from Chick-fil-A. The restaurant's website touts the event as the "one day of the year when it's OK to dress udderly crazy in exchange for free food."
"It was a way to say 'thank you' to our customers," Crosby said.
Customers loved it. Quickly, the concept grew into a beloved tradition. Across the United States, 2,100 Chick-fil-A restaurants celebrate Cow Appreciation Day and saw a total of 1.6 million bovine-clad customers in 2016.
Crosby said a steady stream of families return year after year, bringing an ever growing pool of kids and grandkids.
"I haven't seen a year that's not busy," she said.
These days customers dressed like cows can choose from 10 free breakfast entrees or 15 free lunch and dinner entrees. That's a lot of food options, but Crosby said Cow Appreciation participants in Gwinnett tend to like to go traditional.
"We have a new Barbecue Bacon sandwich (this year) that seem to be a big hit," Crosby said. "But our original Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich is the one that people normally get."
There are options for baby calves learning to love Cow Appreciation Day, too. The restaurant offered three different free kids meals for tiny cow costumes.
But it's not all about the food. Lawrenceville resident Lincoln Coffia is 5 months old. He's not even old enough to receive a free kids meal - but he showed up at the Pike Chick-fil-A on Tuesday with paper cow ears taped to his head and black spots on his onesie.
For his mom, Jess Coffia, Cow Appreciation Day is a tradition she's ready to pass on to Lincoln. She hasn't missed an opportunity an opportunity to dress like a cow for free chicken since 2009.
"I joke and say it's my favorite holiday," Jess said. "I love Chick-fil-A."
In fact, Coffia was married on the cow-themed day a couple years ago. She said the timing was a coincidence. But it was a coincidence she was sure to take advantage of.
"We went as a bridal party to Cow Appreciation Day," Coffia said. "Or, as a 'bridal herd,' as we called it."
Now, she held her baby at his first Cow Appreciation Day, fixing the paper ear he'd torn off his head.
Crosby said she loved how the marketing event had become a family tradition for the community.
"It's probably our most popular single day customer appreciation event," she said. "So everybody, I think, really appreciates Cow Appreciation Day."
Across the restaurant from Lincoln, Marcos sat with a large grin on his small, spotted face. In front of him sat his first free Chick-fil-A meal - nuggets, fries and a box of apple juice.
Flor said it wasn't easy to get her brother into his "Eat Mor Chikin" onesie. And his squirming made it nearly impossible to paint the round little cow spots on his face.
But she said it was worth it to see her brother's reaction to his first Cow Appreciation Day, which was also his first taste of the chain's iconic food.
"He loves the fries a lot," Flor said.