Many of you have heard of the “Chicken Sandwich War” that erupted the summer of 2019. It started with a tweet on August 12—when Popeyes announced via Twitter that their chicken sandwich on a brioche bun had been added to the menu. Chick-fil-A responded with a tweet of their own, and the war had begun. What no one really foresaw was the public response.
A host of Popeyes restaurants reported selling over a thousand chicken sandwiches a day. Google searches for “Popeyes chicken sandwich” grew almost 1000 percent. Then, just two weeks later, Popeyes had sold out of their now famous chicken sandwich, leaving hundreds of irritated customers in its anticipated wake.
According to Placer.ai, a company that provides retail intelligence and trends, Popeyes experienced a massive increase in the number of visits in August 2019. Analyzing baseline change between July 2017 and September 2019 showed that August had an increase of 65.2 percent!
What’s even more interesting than this social media marketing phenomenon which, by the way, would have cost Popeyes an equivalent of $65 million dollars in order to receive the same amount of attention, is this: Despite the fact that Popeyes has been out of their chicken sandwich for more than two months, since the end of August, they saw a 15.6 percent sales growth in the third quarter. Let me repeat that: a 15.6 percent growth without their famous chicken sandwich! What!?
Popeyes also had comparable sales growth of almost 10 percent in the U.S., leading to one of its best quarters in almost two decades.
Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich Returns November 3
For those of you who did not get to try, or tried and now crave, Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich, you’ll be happy to hear that it just became available once again, as of November 3. Although Sunday is a rather odd day for such an announcement, it may be due, at least in part, to the fact that Chick-fil-A’s are closed on Sundays. Someone on their marketing team is checking out all the angles.
And, yes, the frenzy is on again. Mashable shared several tweets and videos that people tweeted and took of the long line that awaited them at their favorite Popeyes. One man ran out of gas while waiting and decided to push his car the rest of the way in order to keep his place in line. Really?
So, just what did this do for Restaurant Brands International, their parent company?
Popeye’s wasn’t their only strong contender this quarter. Burger King, also owned by the mega-company, saw its best third-quarter comparable sales increase in four years due, in large part, to their plant-based Impossible Whopper. The popular chain reported a 5 percent increase in same-store sales.
According to Placer.ai, visits to Burger King were up over 16 percent in July 2019 compared to the same month in 2018.
These two success stories helped offset the losses that occurred with Tim Horton’s, the company’s brand that experienced a 1.4 percent decline in comparable sales. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this fast-food chain, they specialize in coffee and doughnut items and are one of Canada’s biggest quick service restaurant chains. There are currently 850 locations in the U.S. and 4,400 restaurants systemwide.
In an effort to turn around declining sales, they are looking at improving food and beverage options as well as adding more drive-thru lanes to allow for faster service. Recently, in March of 2019, they launched their loyalty program.
Despite their two successes, Restaurant Brand’s shares slid 3.8 percent on Monday, October 28. Keep in mind that they have gained almost 25 percent for the year to date.
If nothing else, this type of data highlights two important considerations for those in the restaurant industry: Make sure you have a well-established social media campaign, ensure that your supply chain is prepared for sudden success, and don’t ignore the current trend toward plant-based foods.