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The Winner of the Chicken Wars

Photo Credit: Wolterke

Crispy chicken.  Pickles.  Brioche bun.  And an extra serving of sauciness. 

That appears to be the winning formula for Popeyes. 

The parent company of the fried-chicken chain, Restaurant Brands International, reported meaty earnings on Monday which sent shares higher by nearly 3% on the day.  A “transformational” Q4 at Popeyes, boosted by the launch of their highly-touted chicken sandwich, drove 34% same-store-sales growth. 

The Strategy
Popeyes was a primary aggressor in the infamous chicken wars of 2019, which also featured KFC, Chick-fil-A, and McDonald’s.  Popeyes was able to generate monumental interest in its sandwich thanks to a robust social media strategy and tactical digs at its competitors, especially Chick-fil-A.  Take the below tweet for instance, which tastefully mocks Chick-fil-A for lauding itself as the “original” chicken sandwich.  

The playful aggression helped double Popeyes’ Twitter followers count overnight and created a huge surge customer demand. They also successfully mocked the Art Basel banana.

KFC launched its own offensive with a Beyond Meat-based vegan chicken offering.  And Chick-fil-A embarrassed itself by promoting national sandwich day, which fell on a Sunday (they are closed on Sundays).  

The Takeaway
For Restaurant Brands, Popeyes remains a relatively small part of the overall business, accounting for just 13% of total sales.  The company also owns Burger King, which introduced its own meatless product alternative in 2019 with the Impossible Whopper. But overall, it was Popeyes that stole the show.

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