Chick-fil-A saw "unprecedented" sales numbers during its unofficial "Appreciation Day" on Wednesday, but it pained some gay employees of the restaurant chain to work on a day that they perceived to have been created against them.
"I call it hater appreciation day," Andrew, a gay Chick-fil-A employee in northern Alabama whose last name was not used to protect his identity, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. "It's very, very depressing."
The Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was started by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who challenged his Facebook followers to support the company after its president, Dan Cathy, came under fire for speaking out in favor of traditional marriage.
On Wednesday, so many supporters ventured out to purchase fast food from the restaurants that there were, at times, two and three hour waits at some locations. Some locations also ran out of certain foods, or were forced to close down early for fear that they wouldn't have enough food left to open on Thursday.
But some gay employees say Cathy's comments will make it more difficult for them to work for the company, in part because many patrons assume that the employees hold the same views as Cathy.
"Now, anyone that works there is stuck with a stigma of being homophobic, even when many of us are far from it," said K, a gay Chick-fil-A worker from Louisiana who also did not want her name printed, according to The Huffington Post. K also said that she and many of her coworkers are currently looking for new jobs.
The manager of the only Chick-fil-A in New Hampshire, which is located inside Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, recently decided to take his local franchise in different direction by showing support for the gay community by becoming a sponsor of the New Hampshire Pride Fest.
"In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community," said Anthony Picolia, the Nashua store owner, in a statement. "It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
And while Cathy is clearly against the idea of gay marriage, his company has also made it clear that it will treat everyone equally at its restaurants.
Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing for Chick-fil-A, said the company's leaders are "grateful and humbled" by the number of people who participated in Appreciation Day, although the company has thus far refused to release any of its sales numbers.
"While we don't release exact sales numbers, it was an unprecedented day," said Robinson. "The Chick-fil-A culture and 66-year-old service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
Over 600,000 people agreed on Facebook to support Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day by visiting their local restaurant on Wednesday. As of March 2012, the company had over 1,600 restaurants in 39 states and the District of Columbia.