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Service with a smile: Chick-fil-A employee wins students’ hearts

Cindy Heaston is the last original employee of UNK’s Chick-fil-A
Cindy+Heaston+has+worked+at+UNK+since+1998.+Photo+by+Shelby+Berglund+%2F+Antelope+Staff
Cindy Heaston has worked at UNK since 1998. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

ostdiekr@lopers.unk.edu

Cindy Heaston, recognizable by most on campus as the friendly face behind the Chick-fil-A counter, is dedicated to being a positive light in students’ days. 

Since Chick-fil-A opened in the Nebraskan Student Union in 2018, Heaston stands as the last remaining original employee. She is fueled by the joy of engaging in daily conversations with people.

“My favorite part of the job is getting to visit with people,” Heaston said. “I’ve always felt this way. Sometimes people are so busy doing things that nobody stops them to have a sincere connection. So I try to engage with students.”

Heaston’s UNK career began in August of 1998 working for Chartwells, the university’s former dining service provider. The position at UNK offered her a welcomed change, having experience in the food industry since her high school graduation.

She cooked food in University Residence South, eventually branded as Louie’s Diner, for over fifteen years before transitioning to The Graze as a dining hall cashier in 2015.

“After a few years working upstairs in the dining hall, Chick-fil-A opened up and my boss at the time asked if I would be willing to come down and help,” Heaston said. “Initially, I was hesitant and kept thinking ‘Man, I’m nuts for doing this.’ But eventually, I got the hang of things and enjoyed the change of pace.”

On campus, Heaston is widely recognized as the woman at Chick-fil-A who remembers your name.

Her effort to remember students’ names – and even their orders – is a testament to her dedication to making meaningful connections with customers.

“I’ll never forget one of my regulars who graduated, Kenny,” Heaston said. “His usual order was a 20-count chicken nugget meal with a large fry and large Mountain Dew.”

While there isn’t a specific trick she employs, Heaston relies on familiar faces, individual styles, unique names and specific orders to help her remember the regulars.

“When Cindy remembers my name it brightens my day and makes me feel special,” said Olivia Johnson, a UNK sophomore. “She radiates joy and kindness. A smile will be on my face if she is at Chick-fil-A.” 

People who work with Heaston each day share the same positive sentiments.

Tiffany Shultz, retail director of UNK dining services, describes Heaston as dedicated, personable and joyful. 

“I admire the joy she has for all of the students,” Shultz said.

Heaston doesn’t have plans to slow down anytime soon, as Chick-fil-A keeps her active.

“Working here gives me something to do and keeps me motivated to get out of the house,” Heaston said. “I drive here each day from Elm Creek so it keeps me moving.”

To replicate Heaston’s favorite Chick-fil-A order on the next visit, consider the deluxe sandwich with fries dipped in ranch sauce. Perhaps Cindy will even remember your name.

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Rachel Ostdiek, Executive Editor
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