- Popeyes foot traffic rose 299% higher than average daily traffic from Jan. 1, 2017 to Nov. 3, 2019 during the relaunch of its chicken sandwich on Nov. 3, according to Placer.ai data.
- This traffic spike is larger than the influx of diner visits Popeyes gained during the initial rollout of the sandwich, when traffic peaked 256% and 243% on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, respectively.
- Placer.ai's data also suggests that the return of Popeyes sandwich had a positive halo effect for rival chicken chains. KFC's foot traffic rose 25% and 29% on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, respectively.
Demand for Popeyes sandwich wasn't hurt by its initial supply issues, and the fact that diner interest in the product buoyed rival chicken chains as well signals that the chicken sandwich wars are far from over.
But Popeyes will need more than positive reviews of the sandwich's quality and a solid social media presence to take down Chick-fil-A, which Popeyes has transparently pitted itself against since its initial launch. Popeyes stores around the country have already begun to sell out of the sandwich again, despite having months to bolster its supply. When Restaurant Dive visited a local Popeyes restaurant this week, the store was understaffed with customers waiting nearly an hour to get their orders.
These operational efficiencies don't bode well for Popeyes' survival in the chicken sandwich wars. While this traffic spike has undoubtedly made the chain more top of mind for the mainstream consumer, and the chain's systemwide sales rose 15.6% during Q3, the chain won't be able to leverage this popularity without improving operations.
Sun Holdings, which operates around 150 Popeyes restaurants, hired 400 new staff members ahead of the relaunch. It's unclear what the restaurant's hiring initiatives were chainwide ahead of the sandwich's return, but during Restaurant Dive's Popeyes visit this week only one employee was manning a register while the line spilled out the door.
Some Popeyes drive-thru locations also had lines of cars so long they blocked freeway traffic, and a patron was stabbed to death for cutting in line at a different location. These chaotic experiences stand in stark contrast to the customer service and tech-enabled efficiency that Chick-fil-A is known for. Now that the Atlanta chain has rolled out dine-in mobile ordering, it has another leg up on Popeyes' store experience.
Even if Popeyes begins to make successful operational improvements, it has a long way to go before catching up to Chick-fil-A's market dominance. The company earned $10.5 billion in revenue last year, while Popeyes secured only $3.7 million.