Many students were met with a surprise on Jan. 24 when the local Chick-Fil-A hung a sign announcing their end to “College Nights” discounts.
The deal, much beloved to Vanguard students, offered a free eight-count nugget with the purchase of a medium drink or fry. Many saw it as an opportunity to not only spend time with friends but get a decent deal on a good dinner.
According to Heather Clarey, Marketing Director for the Harbor Boulevard Chick-Fil-A and VU alumna, news of the change was announced the location’s workers on Jan. 1, after their previous operator left her position in December.
Chick-Fil-A Corporate does not encourage “buy-one, get-one” offers for its franchises, but instead recommends a “surprise and delight” tactic with its patrons. According to Clarey, this allows for an outlook of blessing patrons rather than requiring them to give in order to get. However, this also allows less room for discounts and deals.
Though the previous operator was the creator and perpetrator of the College Night discount, with her departure the timing felt right to move away from the “buy-one, get-one” as corporate stepped in to help with the transition. However, the deletion of the promotion does not mean the end to the College Night atmosphere or possible “surprise and delights” in the future for visiting college students, Clarey explained.
“College Nights are about community. We won’t be getting rid of College Nights on Wednesday, we just won’t be doing the buy-one, get-one free,” Clarey said. “We might do a surprise if we still have a College Nights and students still come.”
This would mean students would be encouraged to continue to hang out at the location Wednesday nights, but there would be no deal upon presenting a student I.D. It would not be a weekly occurrence, but instead students would basically be “given free stuff” rather than purchasing food for a deal, according to Clarey.
The removal of weekly giveaways will also clear up the marketing budget for other community outreach and involvement, Clarey explained. The College Night promotion drew from the marketing funds, limiting the amount they could give in other ways.
College Nights have gone through multiple changes since its conception five years ago, most recently changing from Wednesday to Tuesday nights last semester. According to Clarey, the franchise was about to transition back to Wednesday nights this semester due to their number of comments from students, but the ending of the deal removed that need.
The discontinuation of College Night as it is known came by surprise to many students, with the announcement reaching them the night of, or in the days to follow.
Some found out through word of mouth, and others read the news on the student Facebook page, The Lion’s Den.
Freshman Julia Knight, who read the news the next day from the Facebook group, lamented the loss of an affordable alternative once a week.
“There are only so many resources that we have as college students to have discounts for us and save money…I was looking to save a few dollars on a quality meal that wasn’t the Caf, now I can’t really find that,” Knight said.
Others were confused as to the sudden nature of the change, with no murmurs of termination appearing at the end of last semester.
“I thought it was very out of the blue, kind dropped from the sky when they stopped college nights,” freshman Kaleigh Moschetti said. “Whenever I needed a hug, there was always a [chicken] nug.”
Saying goodbye to the night does not come easily to Chick-Fil-A employees or Vanguard students, many of whom are one and the same. For Clarey, it was equally difficult.
“It was my entire college career coming to Chick-Fil-A, that’s how I got my job here, that’s how I became Marketing Director here,” she said.
It has also been hard for members of the Vanguard community to see the night come to pass, as it had become a tradition of sorts.
“I liked it when it was on the Wednesday night before Shine because you’d take a group of friends to Chick-Fil-A, and then right after you’d go to Shine,” junior Cameron Missakian said. “I’m very sad. It’s one less thing we get.”
Though there is a possibility for the tradition to return once a new operator is announced, Clarey hopes that a transition into the “surprise and delight” technique will provide more space to help Vanguard students and the community when it counts.
“We definitely want to keep celebrating our college students, and we want to be able to surprise them…and the only reason we would want them to follow us on Instagram and Facebook is so they can see where we are going to be giving away free food,” Clarey said.