LAYTON — Patrons of the Chick-fil-A restaurant were surprised during the noon hour Wednesday that, despite the huge crowds, it only took about 10 minutes to get up to the counter to order their food. So many people were there to order chicken sandwiches that cars were waiting along the curb on Antelope Drive and in a mall thoroughfare just to get into one of two drive-thru lines.
Those who wanted to go inside either had to wait several minutes in the drive-thru traffic to get into the parking lot or park at nearby businesses and walk through the long lines of cars surrounding the building.
Then, once at the business, patrons had to wait in a line that snaked outside the building several feet to the corner of the business.
But the business was ready for the crowds. Calli Barnes, a restaurant employee, said it geared up for the expected rush by having extra staff on hand.
“We just ran it how we normally do, just with extra people,” she said.
Wednesday was known across the country as Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, a day set apart for patrons to show their support.
The occasion was generated by those opposed to ridicule Chick-fil-A Chief Executive Dan Cathy has received because of his statements in support of the biblical definition of marriage, raising the ire of supporters of gay unions.
“I’m here to celebrate the sanctity of marriage between a husband and wife,” said Hooper resident Randy Jones, who made the trip into Layton just to eat lunch at the Chick-fil-A.
“Marriage is something worth talking about,” he said. “It should be brought to the attention of everyone.”
Jones admitted to upsetting some of his friends, or former friends, because he has taken a stance not to support same-sex marriage.
The national controversy has included the mayors of Chicago and Boston each stating that they don’t want the restaurant chain to come to their cities. Others have advocated boycotting the business.
The issue arose when Cathy said in a recent interview with the Baptist Press that his business operates on biblical principles, although he doesn’t consider Chick-fil-A a Christian business.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said.
“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Russell Goodman, of Clinton, was one of the drivers waiting in line at the drive-thru in Layton.
“I don’t think anyone should tell them what they can and can’t do and how they should run their business,” Goodman said.
And of those who have ridiculed Cathy, he said: “They can have their lifestyle the way they want, but don’t force (it) upon me and tell me I shouldn’t shop here because they don’t support them.”
Leslie Merrill, of Clinton, chose to eat at the restaurant to celebrate her 43rd birthday.
“I wanted to support the CEO who said he believed in the tradition of marriage,” she said. “I do, too. That’s why I’m here.”
Friends and neighbors who brought Merrill to the restaurant said they would have waited an hour for a sandwich.
“We wanted to support that they would stick to their guns and not be afraid to support what they believe in,” said Tiffany Waugh, Merrill’s neighbor.
“I think it was taken out of context,” Tiffany’s husband, Clay Waugh, said of comments Cathy reportedly made about supporting traditional marriage. “They are supporting traditional marriage, not saying anything about the other.
“Just because you believe in one or the other, I don’t think either should be demonized for it. That’s the great thing about our country — free speech.”
Lines also extended outside the doors at Chick-fil-A stores in Riverdale and Ogden’s Newgate Mall.
At the Riverdale location, cars weaved around the parking lot, waiting for access to the drive-thru, with some cars even spilling onto Riverdale Road.
Ogden resident Daniel Covy said he had no idea it was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. He said he was aware of the controversy and was angry he had to wait in line for so long.
“I think this whole thing is a little ridiculous,” he said. “And I am talking about people on both sides. First, all the boycotts, and now I have to wait (30 minutes) for fast food. I might just head over to Burger King.”
Standard-Examiner reporter Mitch Shaw and wire services contributed to this article.