Typically, businesses hold appreciation days for their customers. On Wednesday, customers flipped the script, showing up in droves at Orange County branches of Chick-fil-A to support the fast-food chain owner's stance against same-sex marriage.
With encouragement from former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who declared Wednesday as Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, customers swarmed the Foothill Ranch restaurant soon after its 6:30 a.m. opening.
Other franchises in Orange County also enjoyed big crowds. The chain recently faced an uproar from gay marriage proponents after company president Dan Cathy publicly expressed his support for the "biblical definition of the family unit."
On Wednesday, the local Chick-Fil-A had "overwhelming support from the community," said Jeremy Simpson, owner of the . "We can't cook chicken fast enough."
Simpson said the restaurant sold three times the amount of breakfast food it usually does. More than 3,000 customers had eaten at the Foothill Ranch restaurant by mid-afternoon, according to Simpson. By the end of the day, the restaurant had sold out of all of its food—about four days worth.
After Huckabee's announcement, Simpson ordered an extra truckload of food for the week. But Wednesday's turnout was so massive that by about 2 p.m., Simpson said the restaurant didn't have the capacity to serve the number of people coming through the doors.
By midday, the wait was about 90 minutes.
That's how long Rancho Santa Margarita resident Janet Trenda waited for her lunch, she said as she sat under a red umbrella outside the restaurant.
"I think it's sad that there's been this big turn against [Chick-Fil-A] because someone's faith disagreed with someone else's faith," she said. "I just want to support a company that operates in a godly way."
Inside, the restaurant was standing-room-only most of the day, with some customers cheering as they reached the cash register.
"We started running out of menu items by 11:30 a.m.," Simpson said. "We went to a limited menu around noon."
By 2 p.m., he took a break from cooking chicken to announce that the store's milkshake machine was on its last legs.
"The ice cream machine is literally shutting down," he said. "It's really dragging."
That didn't phase Cindy Montefu of Rancho Santa Margarita, who swung by the restaurant with her 13-year-old son, Daniel, on their way to the Orange County Fair.
"We wanted to show our appreciation," she said. "It's not to take away anybody's rights, but -- like anybody else -- you can choose to put your money where you want."
Montefu said she wanted to support the company and its CEO for expressing his belief.
"They have a right to their opinion," she said. "It's the First Amendment, the duty of every American [to uphold]."
She and her son waited about 45 minutes in the line, which spilled out the door and into the parking lot, for their lunches.
Despite the long waits, the crowds were both friendly and orderly, Montefu and other customers said.
One meal wasn't enough for Lake Forest resident Rick Lancaster, who ate breakfast and lunch at the Foothill Ranch Chick-Fil-A.
"I'm going to come back for dinner, but they said might be out of food by then," he said.
He heard about the pro-Chick effort from Huckabee and on the radio, Lancaster said.
His trio of visits was meant to back the company's "support of family values." Lancaster said he hoped the turnout would show Chick-Fil-A that "family matters to America."
Simpson said he was "honored" by the turnout, but noted that the Appreciation Day was a customer-driven initiative and not organized or sponsored by the fast-food chain.
Chick-Fil-A released a statement saying much the same.
"Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not created by Chick-fil-A," it said. "We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time."
Customers countywide turned to social media to express their opinion.
Twitter user Vu Le posted a photo of the long line at the Foothill Ranch location and tweeted: "Chik-Fil-A in Foothill Ranch looks like the opposite of a boycott...it's a BUY-cott!"
Another Twitter user wrote: "The local Chick-Fil-A in Foothill Ranch has already doubled their business today and the line is out the door."
This story has been updated.