Though breakfast is nothing new for Chick-fil-A—the chicken chain introduced the daypart nearly 30 years ago—major success in the breakfast daypart has largely been limited to the markets that public relations manager Mark Baldwin calls the “biscuit belt.”

“Here in the biscuit belt, people know that we have biscuits and a morning menu. But outside that, as we continue growing across the country, people don’t know that we have breakfast,” Baldwin says. “And believe it or not, even here in our hometown of Atlanta, there’s still a good population of people that don’t know that we serve breakfast.”

Because the brand doesn’t often dabble in traditional advertising, its favorite approach to drumming up excitement around a product or daypart is through free-food giveaways, Baldwin says, which it’s doing with its latest campaign.

The “Breakfast On Us” promotion lets guests nationwide make a reservation during the week of September 9–14 for a free breakfast entrée of their choice, which can be redeemed at a certain time at their local Chick-fil-A unit.

Breakfast items offered include the Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit; Spicy Chicken Biscuit; Sausage Biscuit; 3-Count Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Minis; Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel; Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit; Chicken Breakfast Burrito; Sausage Breakfast Burrito; oatmeal; or a yogurt parfait.

Guests can make reservations on through September 13, or until all slots are filled.

“It’s no secret: People love free,” Baldwin says. “So rather than buy one, get one free or anything like that, we just like to lead with our food and get the taste of our food in as many mouths as possible. That just generally drives a lot of traffic to our restaurants.”

But though attention-grabbing, giving away free food at a chain like Chick-fil-A—which not only has a large and loyal fan following, but also emphasizes top-notch customer service—can be a challenge, and one it learned from in the past.

When it revamped its chicken strips several years ago and hosted a similar free-food giveaway, turnout was terrific. Franchisees, however, “begged us to put some sort of filter or some kind of way to guestimate how many people would be coming at whatever time,” Baldwin says, adding that while operators were able to meet the demand, service standards fell.

That’s when Chick-fil-A developed the reservation system, which it later used when launching the Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

“Rather than having a free-for-all, just saying, ‘Hey, we’ll give you free breakfast if you stop by Chick-fil-A this week,’ we want to know when they’re coming in and how many people to expect,” he says. “That way we can prepare the best-quality product and also [deliver] our service standards.”

Baldwin says each Chick-fil-A unit is prepared to give away hundreds of breakfast items each day.

“We are encouraging our franchisees to go big and to offer as many free products as we can,” he says. “We’re not just doing one certain product. We’re doing pretty much our main, core breakfast entrées.”

He says this not only brings in new customers, but encourages frequent visitors to try something new. “It gives them an opportunity to tour the menu, if you will,” Baldwin says.

As the brand expands into new parts of the country, Baldwin says Chick-fil-A will continue innovating in the breakfast daypart to meet the needs and desires of consumers who don’t prefer biscuits as a morning meal.

“We have to come up with something that caters to those needs,” he says, adding that ultimately, the brand wants a breakfast menu that “will be consistent, whether you’re in California or Atlanta, but still have a regional offering and appeal.”

By Mary Avant

Breakfast, Marketing & Promotions, News, Chick-fil-A