UPDATE, Nov. 5, 2019: Customers are reporting that some Popeyes locations across the country are already selling out of the sandwich, according to Forbes and Bloomberg, just three days after its return to stores.
- Popeyes will bring back its fried chicken sandwich on Sunday, Nov. 3, according to an announcement. The offering previously sold out within weeks of its Aug. 12 debut.
- In a video attached to the news, a person posts an "Open Sunday" tag under a Popeyes roadside advertisement. The Popeyes ad sits directly next to one for Chick-fil-A that notes the rival is closed on Sundays.
- A tweet posted on Popeyes official Twitter account said the menu item will be back, not just on Nov. 3, but also "every day" moving forward, indicating the return is permanent. Popeyes previously said that this would be the case.
Since its Sunday re-launch, demand has already been high resulting in traffic jams from long drive-thru lines, even though the company indicated that it had enough supply and it wasn't likely to leave the menu any time soon.
If the chicken chain suffers more supply issues in the coming days, it could undermine consumer confidence in the brand, despite widespread hype for the menu item on social media. Shortages could also drive diners seeking the chicken sandwich to rival QSRs like Chick-fil-A and Wendy's, who entered the so-called chicken sandwich wars on Twitter at the time of Popeyes' initial sandwich launch. Around the time that Popeyes sold out of its chicken sandwich at the end of August, KFC, Zaxby's and Chick-fil-A all experienced traffic boosts.
ClemsonTom) November 3, 2019
Popeyes began its relaunch of the sandwich with a shot across the bow at Chick-fil-A, echoing the notorious Coke-Pepsi Cola Wars of the '80s.
The timing of the chicken sandwich's return was deliberate: Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the owner of Popeyes, reported the chain's comparable sales rose 9.7% overall in Q3 earnings released Monday.
"Popeyes had one of its best quarters in nearly two decades, achieving comparable sales growth of more than 10% in the US," Jose Cil, CEO at RBI, said in a press statement.
Popeyes' chicken sandwich is notable not just for its popularity — the chain plowed through two months' worth of supply in two weeks, per the International Business Times — but how little paid marketing the brand put behind the launch.
The company introduced the menu item with a stunt involving a Los Angeles restaurant that was previously called out for passing off the fast food purveyor's fried chicken as its own. But most of the traction for the sandwich was organic, spurred by online niches and people interested in seeing how the offering stacks up to category stalwart Chick-fil-A.
Y’all…the sandwich is back Sunday, November 3rd. Then every day. ???????? pic.twitter.com/JDxyCIv0zz— Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken) October 28, 2019
"What Popeyes did is they completely leveraged the power of a unique community [in] #BlackTwitter," JP Maheu, VP of U.S. client services at Twitter, said at Advertising Week New York this fall. "[Popeyes] actually didn't spend much money on Twitter. They leveraged their audience from an organic standpoint."
Maheu suggested the chain saw around $65 million in earned media for the sandwich's launch period. In the earnings report, RBI executives affirmed the brand generated millions in free media due to online buzz.
As supplies ran short, Popeyes continued to lean into community-led marketing to extend the conversation around its new hit. A few weeks after the official announcement of a sell-out on Aug. 27, the company encouraged customers to bring their own bun — a spin on "bring your own bottle," or BYOB — to recreate the chicken sandwich on their own. If this week's reported shortages grow, it will be interesting to see if the chain is able to play off the problem with humor once again, or if the supply issue will undermine diner loyalty.