- Popeyes added a Blackened Chicken Sandwich as a permanent menu item in the U.S. and Canada, marking the first permanent alteration to its chicken sandwich slate since 2019, the company said in a press release Tuesday.
- The sandwich, which was introduced as an LTO last year, includes a marinated and seasoned chicken breast, rather than a breaded and fried piece of chicken. Popeyes framed this distinction as “a lighter option that is perfect for everyday.”
- Popeyes has struggled to grow sales beyond the heights it reached during the so-called chicken sandwich wars. Like rival brands, it is embracing menu innovation to entice customers — who are cutting back on restaurant spend — with novelty.
When Popeyes launched the blackened chicken sandwich as an LTO in November 2022, the chain said it was restarting the chicken sandwich wars. Joshua Kobza, then chief operating officer and now CEO of Restaurant Brands International, said on the company’s Q4 2022 earnings call that customer response to the LTO was strong.
“This addition resonated well with guests and helped drive a healthy rebound in overall chicken sandwich performance,” Kobza said.
On the company’s Q1 2023 earnings call, Kobza predicted menu changes would be a major part of Popeyes’ strategy going forward based on the success of LTOs like the Blackened Chicken Sandwich and Ghost Pepper Wings, which are also on the menu as a permanent item.
The new sandwich could help boost same-store sales given its past success. While systemwide sales have grown for Popeyes, helping to power its aggressive U.S. and Canada expansion plans, it has experienced an ominous, multi-year contraction of comparable sales.
Popeyes U.S. Comparable Sales 2019-2022
Other QSR chains have gleaned sales success from menu experimentation. Papa Johns’ franchisees reported same-store sales increases as a result of that brand’s Papadia LTOs. Chipotle took advantage of the popularity of menu customizations on social media to add a new type of quesadilla to its menu on a permanent basis. Chili’s recent menu updates have focused primarily on its core items. Subway added a further six sandwiches to its pre-set menu earlier this year, following a major overhaul of its menu in 2022. All of these menu innovations come as consumer seek greater value, or trade down toward the QSR sector.
Popeyes said the pricing on its new sandwich starts at about $4.99. To promote the sandwich, the chicken brand will offer a free extra regular side to customers who purchase the Blackened Chicken Sandwich through the app or through Popeyes’ website. The company also offers cheese and bacon as add-ons to its chicken sandwiches, for an additional $1.50.