- During the quarter through the first two weeks of March, comp sales growth was in the 30s in the U.S., driven largely by growth in the chicken sandwich as well as growth in bone-in, boneless and seafood orders, Jose Cil, Restaurant Brands International CEO, said during a Friday earnings call with investors. For the last two weeks of the quarter, comp sales were flat.
- Popeyes quickly turned to emphasizing its off-premise business in April, rolling out contactless procedures in drive-thru and expanding delivery and mobile order pickup, which led to sales improving and returning to levels seen in March. Average ticket size also increased, especially during the dinner daypart with the growth of family meal bundles.
- Global systemwide sales grew 32.3% to about $1.3 billion during the first quarter, with global comp sales up 26.2% and net restaurant growth of 7%, according to an earnings release.
The Popeyes chicken sandwich continues to be the chain's most successful product launch, and has made a big difference during the first quarter despite the pandemic. Comparatively, Burger King’s comp sales dropped 3.7% and Tim Horton’s comp sales dropped 10.3% for the quarter.
“Popeyes' success last year was unlike anything any of us have seen in our careers,” Cil said on the call. “It’s resilience in the face of COVID-19 with dining rooms closed across the country is equally remarkable.”
Part of that success has come from a quick pivot to off-premise and growth in delivery. Comparable delivery sales were up in the triple-digits year over year for both Popeyes and Burger King, and RBI continues to see delivery as a huge opportunity to reach new guests, Cil said.
Much of this success is driven by delivery through the company’s own apps, which represents around 20% of delivery for both of these brands, Joshua Kobza, Restaurant Brands International COO, said during the call. Digital sales represented 15% of sales for Popeyes during the quarter, he said.
Even before the pandemic hit, sales of Popeyes chicken sandwich were remarkable, helping the chain grow comp sales by 34.4% during Q4 2019, and comp sales for 2019 were up 12.1% compared to 1.6% in 2018.
The summer 2019 launch was so popular, the chicken sandwich sold out in two weeks with traffic growth peaking at 256% on Aug. 23. Its relaunch in November was just as successful, with foot traffic rising 299% on Nov. 3. Visits to Popeyes during the first quarter grew 40%, according to Placer.ai data. Given its strong off-premise mix for the quarter, it's sales for the chicken sandwich will likely only grow as states continue to ease dining room restrictions.