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The chicken sandwich isn't enough for Popeyes anymore

The chicken sandwich isn’t enough for Popeyes anymore


New York
CNN Business

When Popeyes launched its crispy chicken sandwich in 2019, the menu item sold out in just two weeks. When it came back, it was a massive hit — the sandwich was so popular it helped lift sales for the chicken chain. Popeyes has sold nuggets and fish sandwiches modeled on the item to try to build off its success.

But excitement around the chicken sandwich has faded.

In the third quarter, US sales at Popeyes restaurants open at least 17 months nudged up just 1.3% compared to the year before, according to parent company Restaurant Brands International (QSR), which also owns Burger King and Tim Hortons.

Now, Popeyes is focusing on something else: Speed ​​and convenience. And that means more drive-thrus.

“The development team continues to take a proactive approach to franchisee format and site selection to … make Popeyes more convenient for guests,” said RBI CEO Jose Cil during a Thursday analyst call discussing the quarterly results.

“In North America, most openings in 2022 have been freestanding, single, or double drive-thru locations that not only offer more convenience for guests, but also typically deliver results ahead of the system average,” he added.

Speed ​​is key to fast food restaurants, whose customers can pick a location on how quickly they can get their meal and go. That’s especially true for drive-thrus, where customers who spot a long line may just drive on by. Double drive-thrus should help customers get through the queue more quickly.

It’s not just about speed, however. As restaurants rely more heavily on digital orders, they have to make sure that customers get a consistent experience, another key expectation when it comes to fast food.

“Making Popeyes more convenient to guests goes beyond development opportunities,” Cil said. “We also need to ensure we’re providing guests with a consistent experience across a diversified set of ordering modes and platforms.”

Earlier this year, the brand announced plans to open 200 new locations in the United States and Canada, among other locations globally. There are about 2,860 Popeyes locations in the US, and nearly 3,930 globally.

While Restaurant Brands expands Popeyes, it’s also working to turn Burger King around. In September, the company announced plans to invest $400 million in improving the brand over the next two years — $250 million toward updating restaurant tech, kitchens and remodeling, and $150 million to advertising and digital products.

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