900 ROOM –– Shockwaves reverberated across the American fast-food industry on Monday as Anthony Popper, former CEO of the middling restaurant chain Hardee’s, was seen shoveling large quantities of leftover Chick-fil-A nuggets into his inner suit jacket pockets following a speaking engagement hosted by the Davidson College chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.

The event, titled “Socialism’s Empty Promise and the Case for Moral Capitalism,” was publicized to students via social media over the past week, with the promise of free Chick-fil-A included as an added incentive. While it is common for student groups to offer free Chick-fil-A in order to attract their classmates to various campus events, this particular instance featured an obvious dissonance given the speaker’s former status as chief executive of a rival fast-food brand. 

Though the catering choice seemed puzzling to some, Mr. Popper appeared more than happy to indulge in the unconsumed nuggets after the event’s conclusion. Popper was briefly questioned by a Yowl correspondent as he surreptitiously slipped from the 900 Room in an attempt to conceal the bulk of chicken nuggets on his person. Said the frazzled former Hardee’s CEO, “Alright, look, I can explain. I mean, ugh, can you blame me? These things are delicious! Ok I know how this looks but this isn’t disloyal, alright? Brand loyalty is, um, irrational consumer behavior anyways, especially in a competitive industry like fast-food where its all essentially, uh, standardized product. Yeah! Yeah, that’s it. There you have it, I’ve done nothing wrong!”

By all accounts, Popper’s logic checks out. A five-piece order of hand-breaded chicken tenders from Hardee’s costs $5.79, while a comparable four-piece Chick-n-strips order from Chick-fil-A costs $4.39. On a per-nugget cost basis, Chick-fil-A offers the consumer the best value at $1.09, marginally below the Hardee’s price of $1.16. As Popper communicated to The Yowl over email, it would have therefore been an affront to capitalism if Hardee’s had been offered at the event. “Besides,” Popper wrote, “they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but nobody ever said anything about a free late-night snack, or anything about free all-breast meat chicken, seasoned to perfection and pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil, for that matter.”

While Popper’s covert nugget-hoarding efforts may be justified by holding loyalty to basic economic rationale in higher regard than loyalty to a specific brand, sources tell The Yowl that members current Hardee’s leadership were none too pleased with the incident, which some are referring to as Nugget-Gate.

At press time, Hardee’s Wikipedia page, which already includes three references to “controversy” in its table of contents, was undergoing additional edits to reflect the most recent high-profile faux pas.