|By G. Michael Dobbs|
CHICOPEE – Robert Hewes, the owner of the first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant in New England sees more than just a fast food restaurant. He sees the eatery as a place to develop the next generation of leaders.
Hewes spoke to Reminder Publications on Dec. 6 in the construction trailer outside of the restaurant building. Located at 501 Memorial Avenue next to the Aldi food market, the restaurant is expected to be open in February 2014.
The 4,876 square-foot building will be able to seat 135 diners as well as offer a drive-through lane and Hewes said it would generate 80 full- and part-time jobs.
Hewes is a former Springfield College professor of 16 years, who said that 28 years ago he “fell in love” with the restaurant and its food while he was working in Greensburg, Penn.
“The smell takes me back to my youth,” he said with a smile. Chick-fil-A is known for a variety of chicken sandwiches, wraps, salads and trays. It will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and closed on Sunday.
Thanks to a Facebook page (Chick fil A of Chicopee) Hewes said there is already “a buzz” happening about the chicken chain that has more than 1,000 standalone locations. He noted a family in western New York has already contacted him about scheduling their daughter’s birthday party at his restaurant.
Chick-fil-A has received high ratings from industry research groups about the quality of its food and Hews said that all of the chicken is hand prepared. The company’s lemonade is made fresh at each location by squeezing 600 lemons a day. There are fresh flowers on the tables and employees come to the table to refill customer’s beverages.
“There is genuine hospitality,” Hewes said. “We make deep personal connections.”
Hewes said the Chick-fil-A model for franchises is different than other companies. He can only own one restaurant and will be working in his restaurant daily.
“This is not an investment, it’s a career,” he said.
When asked why would the national company select this location, Hewes said the corporation selects “highly visible” sites and “listens to the pulse of the community.” He added the 100-foot tall sign would be visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Hewes said the grand opening of the restaurant in February would include a Chick-fil-A tradition: The First 100.” The restaurant will encourage adults to be among the first 100 people in line for the opening. If they are, they will receive 52 gift certificates for a sandwich a week. At other locations people turn up with tents and sleeping bags and Hews said the restaurant would feed those in line and make sure the rest rooms are available.
“It’s a very family event; a big party,” he said.
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