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| Thursday, February 22, 2018

I have some sad news for you, ND. Chick-fil-A is not coming to Notre Dame and probably won’t be for the foreseeable future.

The sentiment is clear: Students at this university want a Chick-fil-A on campus. Maybe it’s the heavenly original chicken sandwich. Or maybe, it’s the eight-count nuggets meal with fries, Chick-fil-A sauce and a medium lemonade that keep us coming back for more. And let’s not forget the pure despair that occurs when you want to satiate your Chick-fil-A craving, only to remember that it’s a Sunday.

The desire for a Chick-fil-A on campus has been made clear to numerous student government administrations. When asked about the progress of this idea via Facebook, on Nov. 30, 2017, the current student body president, Becca Blais, promised that Chick-fil-A was “coming to stadium concessions in 2018.” After contacting Campus Dining and the program manager for Duncan Student Center, those claims were shown to be false. Additionally, a current ticket for student body president and vice president, Alex Kruszewski and Julia Dunbar, is claiming that they can bring a Chick-fil-A to Eddy Street. Because of my research and involvement with this issue, I can tell you that this is not going to happen by the fall of 2018 as is stated on their platform (although two weeks ago in a Facebook video, they were saying 2020).

Because of my SIBC marketing project last year, I had the unique opportunity to address Notre Dame students’ interest in bringing a Chick-fil-A to campus. As some of you might remember, last Halloween, Chick-fil-A brought a food truck to campus and handed out free sandwiches and gift cards. This event was a part of my team’s idea to host a “Chick-or-Treat” themed event. We collected extensive feedback from students to gauge the success of our event and how they felt about bringing a Chick-fil-A to campus.

With the enthusiastic and positive feedback that we received, along with our personal passion for our project, we contacted members of Campus Dining about potential spaces open in LaFortune Student Center and the soon-to-be-completed Duncan Student Center. Chris Abayasinghe, who serves at the director of Campus Dining, stated the following in response to our inquiries:

“Thanks for reaching out on your business project. Our business model does not include contracting out retail restaurant space on campus. … We did explore the option of adding a Chick-fil-A on campus and after vetting the concept with our student affairs partners, we arrived at the conclusion the concept did not fit in our current portfolio of restaurants. Instead, we placed Smashburger in LaFortune.”

Given that there was no opportunity for a Chick-fil-A to be brought to campus, which was confirmed by coordinators of Campus Dining, we pivoted our focus to the prospects of bringing a Chick-fil-A to Eddy Street Commons. I personally reached out the leasing manager of Eddy Street, Andrew Hasbrook, regarding available space for a potential Chick-fil-A. He expressed genuine interest in and excitement for the idea. Because of the limited space on Eddy Street, however, he said that installing a Chick-fil-A could possibly be considered during Phase II of Eddy Street development.

Motivated by the good news, our group traveled down to Atlanta and pitched our proposal to Matt Sullivan, senior representative of real estate licensing for Chick-fil-A, and his team. Our presentation focused on the fact that Chick-fil-A could continue to lead the way in restaurant design innovation at Eddy Street Commons by fulfilling the student desire for a convenient, fresh and affordable dining option. Additionally, we emphasized that, despite not being on campus, Eddy Street was an extension of Notre Dame and would give Chick-fil-A unprecedented business during game days, as well as a steady and loyal customer flow from hungry, chicken-loving college students.

Although Matt and his team were appreciative of the thought and effort we put into our project, his company was dead set on only venturing directly onto campus. Matt was rather perplexed that, regardless of the positive student feedback we had received, the University was refusing to bring his company to campus. He expressed frustration in the fact that he had been lobbying to get a Chick-fil-A at Notre Dame for the past 15 years; however, he was unwilling to even consider venturing into Eddy Street Commons (Phase I or II). He would only agree to have a restaurant directly on our campus.

On Feb. 6, I touched base with Andrew, the leasing manager of Eddy Street. He confirmed to me that there had still been no traction or interest in Chick-fil-A being a part of Phase II of Eddy Street due to the differences between the University and Chick-fil-A.

I know everyone wants Chick-fil-A, but, unfortunately, the University and the company cannot compromise on plans. Simply put, this decision is not within the control of students and cannot, even remotely, be influenced by student government or “clout.” Even though we’d love the alternative — having Chick-fil-A on Eddy Street — at the end of the day, it is a strategic business venture that Chick-fil-A is not interested in making.

Briana Tucker

Feb. 21

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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