Military Appreciation Night on the USS Midway with Chick-fil-A
It’s the Marine Corps Birthday and the party takes place tonight in San Diego on the USS Midway for the 14th Annual Chick-fil-A Military Appreciation Night! The free evening is helping recognize hundreds of military families for their continued sacrifice and dedication. We talked with Chick-fil-A Santee operator Kyle Steck about the big night, his time in the Naval Academy, remembering the September 11th attacks and expanding the Chick-fil-A brand.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: We’re really excited for tonight’s event taking place on the USS Midway.
Kyle Steck: So we are super excited. I mean, this event’s been going on a while in San Diego, at least very restaurant-based. This year, we kind of gathered around and said, what could we do, that was new and different with a really fun vibe for military families in San Diego. So that’s where we landed on this idea of doing like a central event on the USS Midway, and we couldn’t be more happy about the venue and the event and what’s taking shape. I think it’s going to be awesome, I’m sure.
RM: You’re no stranger to the military, having gone to the Naval Academy and served, share about your experiences.
KS: I am a 2006 graduate of the Naval Academy, I was actually the first class to enter the Naval Academy after 9/11. So military service, having a heart to serve, our country means a lot to me. I spent five-and-a-half years on active duty after the Naval Academy, actually serving right here in San Diego, just down from the USS Midway at 32nd street on two different ships. And so the military community of San Diego, specifically the Navy and Marine Corps community of San Diego, are like my brothers and sisters. I’ve grown up with these people, I’ve served with them. And now to be on the other side with Chick-fil-A, as an operator asking questions like, “How can I get back to these people I spent years serving with? It’s just really cool. I loved service in the military, I think at Chick-fil-A we also have a heart for service.
RM: Was continuing to honor the military something that was kind of always pivotal in your decision-making when you went into business?
KS: I can’t say there was a specific intent all the way through the Chick-fil-A and military, but I would say I’ve always had a heart after getting out of the military. How can I continue to support my brothers and sisters that are either still in the military, or getting out of the military, or transitioning out, because that’s a very tough process. And then when I landed with Chick-fil-A, in San Diego where it’s a huge military town kind of like the circumstances really aligned. So then I started to get opportunities to say, how can I serve the military community in Santee where my restaurant is. But beyond that, with my other operators, like how can we serve the military community of San Diego in general? And so this Military Appreciation Night is kind of a culmination of the effort, but we serve the military through hiring veterans, I do a Veterans Day promotions in my restaurant and will continue doing that, and so it’s just like kind of the culmination of all the small things and I feel like for me personally, there’s a lot of deep meaning. I’m really proud of this.
RM: It’s been 20 years since the attacks on September 11 in 2001. You had mentioned that you went to the Naval Academy right after 9/11… talk about what it means to have served, and the patriotism that we experienced then, and continues to now. It’s such an interesting time for a military families…
KS: The 20th anniversary, I think was probably the most poignant anniversary that I’ve experienced and obviously the last few years, and the last weekend, just really trying to read and go back through the photos and some of the things that were published about that time. I went back and read the transcript for Flight 93 and it brought a lot back. And so I think as we have just passed that milestone anniversary, to kind of look around our country and say, you know, it’s obviously like our country has been incredibly shaped by the fate of that day. And I think now 20 years later, I think there’s still a lot of elements of that heart of the service still prevalent in our communities and I think specifically in the military community, I think if you asked anybody that’s serving now about 9/11, I think they would say that’s an important reason why they end up in military service, even 20 years later.
And so I think that the anniversary, it was really just a weekend for me to reflect, personally. And then also reflect upon how that’s changed our country in a lot of ways for the better, even though that day is tragic. I think the unity that’s generated in the heart for serving our country and just kind of a lot of things that have happened since then have all the positive things.
RM: One of the things I love about Chick-fil-A is that I feel like they got really strong values that you actually feel like they care. There’s more than just going in to get your favorite number up there on the menu. For you, what does it mean to know that that’s how you’re perceived?
KS: I love it. I think it’s a great responsibility for us. I think obviously those people, at this stage, have heard of Chick-fil-A, as they grow wherever our brand is, where we’re the brand that tries to practice what we preach in terms of how we treat customers, treat our team members. And so I see this as a great responsibility, especially as an operator, there’s 2000 other operators like me across the country and we’re all trying to grow and protect this great brand of Chick-fil-A. Treating team members while treating the guests, while having a great experience in the restaurant, having quick service, all those things are a great responsibility to protect and growing our brand. We see this as a very meaningful brand and we want to keep it that way.
RM: Absolutely. So I have to ask you, do you have a favorite menu item?
KS: I’m still a nuggets guy, I love our nuggets. I think they’re special. I think they’re so much different than all of our competitors or any other product out there. My kids love them too. I love nuggets with Ranch, that’s my go-to on a rough day or any day that I’m like, I want something that’s going to really pick my spirit up. Nuggets from Chick-fil-A.
More information at Chick-fil-A Military Appreciation Night