With a dozen grand openings under his belt, Jonathan Nowak thought he'd seen it all when it comes to the lines that form outside a CiCi's when a new franchise unlocks its doors for the first time.
The Texas-based pizza buffet franchise with 439 locations in 33 states opened its newest spot in Streamwood with more than 200 hungry fans lined up before the 11 a.m. Wednesday grand opening.
"This had to be the biggest line I've seen," Nowak, the general manager, said. "We always have it for the grand opening, but this one was so big."
The restaurant is at 127 Irving Park Road, where another CiCi's franchise operated previously. It closed in 2013, according to the former franchise's Facebook page.
Nowak said some people had started setting up tents about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to be one of the first through the door at the restaurant, which offers a variety of pizzas, salads, chicken wings, pasta and desserts in its daily buffet. The prize for the patience of those who waited was a gift card good for one free buffet each month for a year.
Nowak said only the first 100 diners were supposed to receive the gift card, a $78 value for each person.
"We actually had extras, so we gave them out to most everyone who was in the line," he said.
Streamwood resident Glenn Brophy noticed the line when he was leaving for work early Wednesday and wondered what was going on.
"Free pizza? Yeah, I do regret not getting in that line now, but I had to get to work," Brophy lamented. "If I find out another one's opening up, I might do it then."
Last month, the corporate CiCi's office announced franchise agreements for 68 new stores in 14 states.