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The Cairn Chick-fil-A Culture

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“Oh great, it’s Cairn students,” I heard my manager say as she took off her glasses to wipe her tired eyes. How often I have heard that reaction reiterated throughout my work experience at Chick-fil-A. After working there for the past two years, I watched many Cairn students saunter into the restaurant. I have also seen the less than optimistic reactions of my fellow staff while they serve the students.

You may say that they are being overly cynical. That their unenthusiastic demeanor throughout your order experience is uncalled for.

But then again, maybe the problem is you.

As both a Cairn student and a Chick-fil-A employee, I experience both sides of this relationship.photo-1426869981800-95ebf51ce900

The way Cairn sees Chick-fil-A is as an extension of campus. It’s a great, cheap place to go when the cafeteria is serving something less than appetizing. You can go there with all of your friends after a night class and laugh and make memories over discounted fries and milkshakes.

Which is fine. No one at Chick-fil-A wants to put a damper on your college experiences and memories. It is our job to serve you, but my co-workers don’t always uphold with this perception.

After asking around, my fellow employees at Chick-fil-A see Cairn students as “snobby, spoiled brats” that always try to get more out of their discount than is offered to them. They come in late at night in large groups and leave the dining space a mess.

Well, there seems to be a little bit of an issue here.

By the time you reach this point of the article, you may be a little upset. Mad even. You might claim that you are just having a good time and anyone who says otherwise is just a bitter minimum wage employee.

But here is where I say again that maybe the problem is you.

photo-1441122456239-401e92b73c65Are you unhappy with your Cairn discount? Do you feel that you should have any entree you want instead of the limited options that they offer?

Well, according to my staff, it’s time for you to have an attitude change.

To make it clear: Chick-fil-A is extending kindness to you when they give you the discount you have. Do not take advantage of their offer. It is not be manipulated and you are not entitled to get 3 dollars off of a different entree just because you are a Cairn student. They also do not need your business. They are happy to have you and offer you a cheap meal, but as one of the top selling stores in the country, your $3.97 is not crucial to their survival.

Some of the staff will even go as far as to say that the Cairn special should be non-existent because of the abuse that it has weathered from students.

my fellow employees at Chick-fil-A see Cairn students as ‘snobby, spoiled brats’

So, what do we do now?

We change.

This change is not just conforming so the employees like us.

It is so they see our Creator in us.

Wait, but this is Chick-fil-A. It’s a Christian resturant. And we’re Christians. They close on Sundays, so surely they must know that our lives as believers are more than just wanting a discounted chicken sandwich.

Take note: Out of all the staff that I work alongside with, I can count on my hands all the Christians.photo-1414358154612-ae3d3c120004

We have 180 employees.

Many of my co-workers are unchurched and their only exposure to Christ is the Christian college students that come in.

So ask yourself the most important question, “How are my actions within the restaurant exemplifying Christ to these unbelievers?”

Chick-fil-A is my mission field. I have spent two years building relationships with these people trying my best to give them an accurate representation of what it means to love Jesus.

While your interaction with them could be helping my cause, it is instead ruining it. It’s not too late; you can change the way that you act there and the message you are sending.

After all, this is not about what they think of you or even Cairn as an institution.

It is about what you are making them think about Christ.


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  1. Tim
    October 22, 2015 at 6:49 am

    WELL SAID. I hope this article sparks conviction and change in the hearts of those representing Cairn AND most importantly Christ at the local Chick-fil-A’s!

  2. Cairn student
    October 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    I’ve never seen so much ignorance in my life, not only are you labeling the entire cairn student body as spoiled brats. I have never done any of those things mentioned in the article and neither has any group I was with. Although I do feel convicted about the time I took a few extra mints. Also to say that we ruined your chance at evangelizing to your employees is ridiculous, if everyone judged an entire group of people over a few bad experiences, well then we wouldn’t like anyone. In all seriousness, Cairn students please pick up your straw wrappers, let’s all be a light of Christ

    • October 23, 2015 at 12:19 am

      I just wanted to quickly address what you wrote. I realize that the tone of my article was a little harsh; if I knew it would be so well read I probably would have put more effort in the softness of it. To be clear, I know that not every Cairn student is like this. I know that the people that are like this are the minority. Despite this, Cairn still has a bad reputation at CFA among co-workers (“snobby, spoiled brats” is a direct quote from one of my managers– I was not the one to call Cairn this). I found the problem on campus to be that we are ignorant to the reputation that we have, regardless of whether we feel we personally deserve it or not. So while you may find it “ridiculous,” I find that how we represent Christ in the local community is extremely important and not to be ignored because we feel that we are doing just fine. So if that means picking up your straw wrappers and not arguing over your student discount, then do it. If that is what makes us seem different from the world and shows just a little glimmer as to who Christ is, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t do it. This article was meant to spur people on and make them aware of just how important little relations are such as this. If the Christian college has the reputation of being some of the worst customers to have, I think it is worth mentioning. You may be a great customer and I’m glad you are, but I feel that it is still important to be aware of how your actions reflect Christ.

    • Cairn Student & Chik-fil-a worker
      October 28, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      The writer isn’t being ignorant. After two years of working there she see’s how the workers react when students come in advertising Cairn.

      She’s not labeling the entire Cairn body as spoiled brats, but the non-christian workers there are. They workers tend to get uneasy when they see Cairn students.

      She accurately portrayed how SOME Chik-fil-a workers feel about Cairn students, as well as other big groups of messy people or someone with lots of tiny children.

  3. October 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Sweet Lydia! Thank you so much for your post! It was quite enlightening; and no, I didn’t know that we had that type of reaction by the workers when “we” entered the store. Thank You for sharing your experience.

    I’m thankful that you also were respectful to us as students when you wrote this post. You understood that we would be mad. You did express the harshness of this but you also knew the response it would have and had a good motivation for it. I’m thankful that you put in a gospel perspective of having God’s glory being represented.

    Though, I also ponder over how some of this could also be the heart of the employee. I’ve worked in the food business before and have met a decent amount of people who also would have a similar perspective. This perspective being that customers who come in are labeled more by the type of work that it takes to serve them and to what degree will they be a mess, then actually caring to know anything about the heart of a customer. I do not mean to say this as an excuse. But as you said, they say this to any large and loud group that comes in to.

    I would ask that you also would defend us as well. I mean this in asking something like, hey if you were them would you be any different? Do you see that group of two over there who were very nice and treated you better then anyone else? They go to Cairn to you know, you should ask them what they are learning about in their classes. Or another perspective to ask your co-workers, like why don’t you have sympathy for those tiny children who have no idea what they are doing or sympathy for the parents who didn’t have any time to cook a meal. They are probably tired from a long day and don’t want to pick up after their kids. I mean no excuses to them for laziness or lack of diligence in having restaurant manners of cleanliness. There is an aspect that your co-workers are getting paid to clean up after messy people in a fast food restaurant business that is general full of not being appreciated and having that frustration being displaced on anyone and everyone that causes they work to be more difficult, right?

    But also I understand that we do need to put ourselves as students in the shoes of your co-workers and how we can help you be a witness to them. What is something particular that we could do that would help them understand that we are Christians?

    I find that in such a fast paced environment, is being clean really the only thing that defines you as a “good” christian or not? Could we leave them notes and say “hey, thank you for cleaning up our mess, sorry that we have to leave quick and make your work harder”? I don’t know what would you suggest we actually change. I appreciate that you call us out for not being clean and seeming argumentative over not having the right discount or trying to get all you can out of a discount. We don’t exactly all have money either. Could you also share maybe one more thing that we could do that would help them see Jesus in us?

    Thanks again for your post,
    Caleb Bishop

  4. Lydia Hill
    October 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Hey Caleb!

    You asked what is a practical solution to this “CFA problem.” Well, I have a few ideas. First of all, I wouldn’t say that being messy is the main problem that anyone has with cairn students. The real issue is tied up with students trying to get more out of the their discount than what is offered. There has also been multiple occasions where students have used their ID for their meal and then passed it to a friend who was not a student so they could also get a discount. Obviously, this deception is not Christ-like or how we want our school to be portrayed. I am not saying that all students do this, or even the majority– I KNOW its is the few, but the few seem to speak the loudest and have given Cairn this reputation. So a practical response? Know your discount. If you have a question, feel free to ask! But if what you want is not offered to you within the discount, just say “oh that’s fine don’t worry about it” rather than fighting them because you feel that you should be able to get something different. If you forgot your ID and they ask for it, don’t fight that you should still get the discount without it. They have no way to tell if you are a student or not and it is not fair to put them in that position (truly, the discount comes with YOUR ID, not just because you’re a student, if that makes sense). Although, if I am there, I can speak for most people and confirm that they are students, I don’t have a problem with that. If you left a note, or even just thanked someone before you left, it would definitely leave a very positive impact on them. If enough people do so, I think it could very easily change the reputation Cairn has for these people. So in short, be respectful, don’t feel entitled and thank a person here or there for their help to you (THAT is what will set you apart from the rest of the world).

  5. October 30, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks Lydia:) that was very helpful!

    I realize now from what you said that it is mainly that we try to get more then we are given in an unjust way. True not a good reputation to be known as the Christian school that steals and lies, that would be a mockery to Jesus.

    I actually got to go there last night late when I was hungry. I accidentally said the wrong number because it was a long day. I said “could I have a number 2”. Haha wups. The lady then explained to me how that wasn’t the discount. But I think, I think I could sense in her tone of voice the apparent frustration that I would be another cairn student who tried to cheat the system. Though, it could have just been her after a long day as well. I immediately apologized and explained I meant a number 3, the spicy chicken.

    My etiquette, since not many were there, was to say her name and ask her how her day was..I got to share how my day was to and explain that I had just got done with my day. I didn’t get much for supper. I said “thank you for being open and serving us”.

    I got to be relational while there in other ways. Sadly, I ponder over if now the reputation and actions of lying, cheating the system, and stealing has now caused me as a Cairn student to be treated poorly because of their actions. I would find such interactions and causes very unfortunate, as you say, for our Christian testimony and also for your testimony to them as a fellow work and Christian from Cairn.

  6. Andrew Allers
    October 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Well-written, enlightening article. While I want to immediately disagree with you for the sake of my pride, I can’t. I’m sure you’re right, unfortunately.

    Having said that, I wanted to address this section of your piece:

    “To make it clear: Chick-fil-A is extending kindness to you when they give you the discount you have. Do not take advantage of their offer. It is not be manipulated and you are not entitled to get 3 dollars off of a different entree just because you are a Cairn student. They also do not need your business. They are happy to have you and offer you a cheap meal, but as one of the top selling stores in the country, your $3.97 is not crucial to their survival.”

    While you may have a better perspective of Chick Fil A’s motives as one of their employees, I have to disagree with you here. Chick Fil A is not offering this deal solely in the interest of Cairn Students. They are offering this deal to make money… and they make a lot of it from Cairn Students.

    You mentioned that students should not manipulate or take advantage of this deal, and I agree with you. However, Cairn students are absolutely entitled to $3 off of our meals. When businesses offer coupons, specials, or deals, they are entitling the customer to that reduced price. I assume you mean to use entitled in a different sense here, but despite this, try to see my bigger point.

    While I agree with you that Chick Fil A does not necessarily need our business, I’m also hesitant to believe that they would be willing to give up our business. Without the discount, my guess is that Cairn Students would attend than a quarter as often as they do.

    My aim is not to nitpick your word choice or even rebut your overall argument. My aim is to enlighten you to the fact that it is not a one-way deal: Chick Fil A is not simply giving away meals out of the kindness of their hearts. It is an exchange; both are giving, and both are receiving. And Chick Fil A is receiving a heck-of-a lot of business and money from Cairn Students.

    • Lydia
      November 10, 2015 at 10:15 am


      While I do see your point that Chick-fil-A has substantial business from Cairn students, we would hardly see a loss in our numbers if they so chose to end the discount. As a student, we pay just under 4 dollars for a meal; any other person pays somewhere between 7 and 10 dollars depending on what they order. Putting out the same amount of effort to serve a Cairn student as a customer, they essentially receive half of the money in return. In that sense, Cairn is receiving somewhat of a gift from Chick-fil-A. I am speaking from the Oxford Valley standpoint, not Neshaminy. Oxford Valley is top ten in the country for sales and was number one on the east coast until the opening of the CFA in NYC. Its location next to Sesame Place puts us somewhere between 20 and 30,000 dollars a day. While the store appreciates the business of Cairn students, they in reality hardly make a dent in the daily sales. I do agree that the frequency of Cairn students would dwindle significantly if they revoked the discount, but I feel confident saying that CFA would not experience a major loss.
      When I refer to the “entitlement” of the students, I am referring to the pretentious attitude that we have received from many. Cairn students are not entitled to a 3 dollar discount; they are entitled to a specific purchase combination that has rules and limits. The issue is not with Cairn students wanting their discount as it is with them abusing the discount.

      In short, I stand by the claim that Chick-fil-A does not need Cairn’s business to be as successful as they are and what they are offering is a gift and should not be taken advantage of or abused.