- Following the launch of its chicken sandwich, Popeyes daily traffic peaked on Aug. 23 at 218.2% higher than average daily traffic for July, according to a Placer.ai report that analyzed daily visits at KFC, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes and Zaxby's from July 1 to Aug. 31. After the sandwich sold out on Aug. 27, the last Friday and Saturday of the month saw Popeyes' traffic spike 96.7% and 72.1% higher than July’s average.
- KFC also reported a peak in traffic at the end of August, with the last Friday and Saturday of the month experiencing store visit bumps of 29.2% and 13.2% above the baseline during the two-month period, respectively. Chick-fil-A and Zaxby's also had traffic boosts at the end of the month.
- On Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, all four chains had a total of 10.1 million visitors compared to a typical summer weekend of 8.3 million visitors. During the weekend after Popeyes' sandwich sold out, these four restaurants had 9.8 million visitors.
The chicken craze that kicked off with Popeyes' launch of a chicken sandwich, which sold out in two weeks, revealed the power of a successful social media campaign as well as American consumer’s growing love for chicken. Sales of chicken products at QSR and fast casual restaurants have been on the rise, increasing 42.1% from 2011 to 2016.
While chicken is gaining ground, it was social media that really drove the success of Popeyes' chicken sandwich. It got into a Twitter war with Chick-fil-A that helped drive immense interest in the new product, not to mention a rise in social media followers. The sandwich also boasted rave reviews online that helped drive the craze. Popeyes is also hoping to continue its recent popularity with a bring-your-own-bun campaign to promote its chicken tenders.
Wendy’s has also had much success with social media, especially when it comes to its spicy chicken nuggets that were brought back during the summer after challenging 2 million followers to like a tweet about returning the popular item to the menu. KFC also uses social platforms to drive much of its marketing, including a computer-generated influencer, an anime-style dating simulator and a racy video for Mother’s Day that featured “Chickendale” dancers.
Another factor that brought the chicken wars to a head was Chick-fil-A's cult-like popularity and surging sales, which has pushed rival chains — even those outside the chicken segment — to explore chicken sandwiches of their own. McDonald’s franchisees have been pressuring corporate to provide a chicken sandwich that can compete with Chick-fil-A’s sandwich, and the company plans to release a new spicy chicken sandwich this month. Chick-fil-A has been growing exponentially and reached the number three spot of top chains this year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. For Popeyes to take on Chick-fil-A and be successful is a big deal, and could inspire other chains to challenge the brand as well.