So You Want To Open A Restaurant Here? good luck And BE SURE TO bring your checkbook.

You're looking at an architect's rendering of a Chick-fil-A restaurant. To some people here in Massachusetts, the company behind it is unwelcome. In fact, in 2012, the former (and now late) Boston Mayor Thomas Menino went so far as to tell the company we don't want your kind here. Well, they've come knocking, over his dead body, so to speak.

The Mayor didn't have a beef with the chicken; It was strictly political. In the national debate over gay marriage, ultimately decided by SCOTUS, the President of Chick-fil-A had supported anti-gay marriage groups. No surprise there; The company is known as much for its support of Christian and conservative causes as for its chicken sandwiches. This earned them that public rebuke by the mayor and may have cost them some business in Boston and elsewhere. On the other hand, it also won them support of many like-minded people. (It should be noted that after the terrorist attack in a gay nightclub in Orlando that left many dead, the Chick-fil-A restaurants in the area provided food for the first responders and emergency personnel.) Regardless, what residents of Massachusetts think or do isn't determined by any one individual, least of all a grandstanding politician. And just to prove that, among the more than 1,900 Chick-fil-A restaurants in the US, there are four in the Bay State.

Better make that five. After almost three years of wrangling a Chick-fil-A now sits on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hyannis, MA. The fact that it actually came to be built, all 5,100+ square feet of it, is something of a miracle.

From the very beginning when plans for the restaurant were announced, it created controversy. A group of locals had a hissy fit. They didn't want the chain on the Cape, mostly because of their politics. On its website, Chick-fil-A states that its corporate purpose is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” Chick-fil-A restaurants are also famous for being closed on Sundays to allow employees to rest, spend time with family and even to provide time for worship, if they wish. Ironically, in the very state where the Pilgrims fled for reasons of religious freedom, apparently to some today this is "controversial."

Never on Sunday is company policy. Chickens everywhere can breathe a little easier.

But Chick-fil-A persevered. In reviewing the paper trail left behind in the chain's efforts to obtain all the necessary approvals for siting their restaurant in Hyannis, one gets the impression that only those with deep pockets need apply. The company spent $258,000 in traffic mitigation costs alone. The cost breakdown:

  • $94,000 for emergency vehicle pre-emption systems, or OPTICOM, along Route 132 from the Route 6 on-ramps to the Cape Cod Mall. (The fact that countless other businesses sit along this very stretch of roadway makes you wonder if they ALL were required to fork over moolah for the very same systems. Does the term "double-billing" sound familiar?)
  • $77,000 for safety improvements at the intersections of Route 132 and Bearses Way, Enterprise Road and Independence Drive.
  • $52,000 for pedestrian access improvements to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards along Enterprise Road, Route 132 and the Cape Cod Mall driveway.
  • $20,000 for design and installation of a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Bearses Way and Corporation Drive.
  • $15,000 for traffic operations and traffic signal improvements at the same intersections.

(I wonder if the restaurant located directly across the street from Chick-fil-A also had to pay for similar traffic mitigation improvements. But I digress.)

Chick-fil-A must also offer a "commuting alternatives packet" to employees to encourage alternative methods of transportation, other than single-occupant vehicles, to get to work. The company must also provide a Guaranteed-Ride-Home Program to employees who car/vanpool, walk or bicycle to work for emergencies that may arise during the workday.

The Chick-fil-A Guaranteed-Ride-Home Program might want to borrow a page from the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Picture a 24' chicken, say, on wheels zipping about. Good for employees, good for marketing. Better than a billboard even—which, as you have probably already surmised—isn't permitted around these parts. Just a suggestion.

Don't put that checkbook away just yet, fellas. Chick-Fil-A was also required to pay $25,886 to the Town of Barnstable for their Affordable Housing Growth Development Trust Fund. How was this figure arrived at and how many bureaucrats were required to calculate it? You really don't want to know, but here goes anyway:

"OES data for “Restaurants” (NAICS code 722500) suggests that, for this use type, roughly 2.29% of workers make above the average wage for all occupations. CBECS data suggests restaurants typically require 1 employee per 530 sf of building area. Thus, a 5,219 sf restaurant would employ 10 employees with effectively all (9.77 of 10 workers) making below the average wage for all occupations. Using this data, the calculation for “Other” determines a mitigation figure of $4.96 PSF and a total “Community Contribution” payment of $25,886.24." (For the record, Chick-fil-A employs about 70 people. But 10, 70, what does it matter? Bureaucrats like to do things by the book.)

Missed opportunity: Okay, I know what you're thinking. While they were at it, why not make Chick-fil-A also kick in money to do other things as a new member of the community. Like combat the opioid crisis, pay for a free needle exchange program (God knows we need one), address climate change, save the Piping Plover, equip firefighters with red & white striped suspenders, supply tea and scones to library staff, etc, etc. Obviously, someone at the Cape Cod Commission dropped the ball on this one and heads will roll. Oh, wait. These are bureaucrats. Never happen.)

Chick-fil-A complied with all the demands. They made whatever changes were required for the site. They wrote the checks without making a stink.

A Short Lesson in Chick-e-nomics is in order: Chick-fil-A sells a basic chicken sandwich for about $4. That $284,772 is equivalent to over 71,000 of them (roughly 227 every day, six days every week for a year). Not exactly chicken feed.

Perhaps you've gotten the impression that Cape Cod isn't exactly the most welcoming place in which to open a new business ... or that our officials can't come up with enough hurdles and requirements to discourage all but the most determined and well-heeled start-up. Well, yeah.

The town officials decided it was time for some much-needed landscaping in the area ... which hadn't bothered them all that much—until Chick-fil-A came along, ripe for plucking.

However, after complying with a host of requirements—and writing a great many checks—Chick-fil-A finally opened in Hyannis—Ta Ta—on November 30, 2016. Years after setting its sights on the Cape.

So I decided to check out the new kid on the block the other day to see if all the controversy and the hurdles had taken their toll. If the "not here, not ever" crew won the day and turned the new restaurant into a disaster circling the drain with zero prospects on the Cape.

We have a pulse here, people. Instead of a spanking new building with a big "CLOSED" sign on the door and vagrants camped out alongside, I found the busiest restaurant I've ever seen anywhere. What is this National Chicken Day? The place was jumping. You'd think they were giving food away. (They weren't; School was out that week.) There were a dozen vehicles in the drive-thru lane alone. Either this was the world's slowest drive-thru or these customers were dangerously addicted to chicken.

The parking lot, ample by Cape standards, had exactly two open spaces left when I arrived. I used one of my old New Jersey parking lot maneuvers to claim the nearest. As I walked to the entrance eight people fell in right behind me. Inside, the place was packed to the rafters. It's cavernous and there were people everywhere, eating or waiting for their orders to arrive. A dozen people stood ahead of me in the ordering line ... and a bunch lined up behind me. You had to wait to order and then wait for your food to arrive. Despite all that waiting, no one was complaining. They all appeared to be in good humor, chatting, taking it all in stride.

This part of the parking lot had maybe one open space over there on the left. The line at the drive-thru window was 15 vehicles deep ... with NO fried clams on the menu.

The place had an upbeat vibe. I even detected a degree of excitement in the air. When was the last time you saw people over the age of five excited in a fast-food joint? Okay, like maybe when MacDonald's was a new thing ... or when they were giving away those Star Wars action figures with their Happy Meals? More likely never. I ordered a grilled chicken club sandwich and a frosted coffee: both good. The staff was a cut above the typical fast-fooder, too: helpful, polite, friendly, and fast-moving. Motivated you might say. Or could it be a feeling of pride? Workers happy to be working there?

It's been said that people vote with their feet and their wallets. They also vote with their stomachs. Welcome to the Cape, Chick-fil-A.

best,

rob

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