Is it Black Friday again already? Nope—those hardy teens and young adults pitching tents in the Laguna Gateway shopping center aren't lusting after a big-screen TV. They're Freebirds World Burrito fans anxious to take advantage of the restaurant's opening day special: free burritos for a year for the first 25 people in line at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The first campers started showing up Saturday afternoon—a record lead time in the history of the restaurant, which offers the same deal each time it opens a new location.
"They're pretty much paying us to stay out here," said Dan Seip, #17 on the list. Seip was referring to the Freebirds badge he's hoping to get Tuesday, entitling him to one burrito a week for the next 52 weeks.
At about $6.50 for the chain's standard burrito, that's $338 in burrito money for Seip, an engineering student at Cosumnes River College.
Like the crowds at Black Friday, the Freebirds encampment was heavy on students and stay-at-home parents.
"It's fun just camping out and meeting new people," said David Ballou of Roseville. Tuesday's opening will be a burrito bonanza for Ballou, who plans to add a new Freebirds badge to the one he won at the chain's Roseville opening, giving him two burritos per week through December.
At Freebirds, which started in Santa Barbara, burritos range in size from petite to the three-to five-pound Super Monster, and if you stay there long enough, you'll usually hear the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song for which the restaurant was named.
Freebirds marketing coordinator Brian Solan laid out the rules for campers Monday: After signing up on a list, they had to stay in place until the opening. Marketing staff would stage surprise checks on the line, calling stragglers on their cell phones. Anyone who couldn't be reached within a few minutes would lose his or her spot.
The list was full at 25 names by 5:00 p.m. Monday, but there was still hope for those wanting a piece of the burrito windfall. Solan said some campers lose their spots during the night. Employees often take pity on those who stick it out and don't make the top 25, awarding them a lesser prize.
"I usually hook them up with something just for waiting," he said.
Would you stand in line all night for free burritos? Tell us in the comments.