A viral feud between two quick service restaurant (QSR) chains over chicken sandwiches captured consumer attention in 2019, boosting sales at QSRs across the country.

“Chicken sandwiches have always been table stakes, but the buzz in 2019 was competition-driven. The reigning chicken champ, Chick-fil-A, seemed to have gotten ruffled feathers by an unexpected player in the chicken sandwich space,” Kelley Bailie Fechner, Director of Customer Solutions for Datassential, said.

“Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen launched an item that created a social media war heard 'round the restaurant world. The chicken sandwich brought in new visitors, but also successfully pulled visitors away from competitors in the process,” explained Emma Partridge, Senior Client Services Analyst at Numerator.

It all started on August 12 when the quick service restaurant chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen its new fried chicken sandwich on Twitter, receiving only light interest. Then on August 19, Chick-fil-A fired back with a tweet claiming ownership of the original chicken sandwich. When Popeyes replied, the beef started.

The resulting viral feud generated major buzz and the Popeyes sandwich sold out in less than two weeks. When the brand relaunched its sandwich in November, sales increased by more than 34% that quarter.

“Using the touchpoints of their buyers, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was able to capitalize on their heavy buyers to promote their product to all buyer groups – which ended up appealing to buyers that differed from the pre-launch Popeyes customer,” Partridge said.

Interest in the chicken sandwiches remained high – even when Popeyes temporarily took the sandwich off the menu because of supply issues.

“When something negative happens, such as supply problems, take to social media and other media forms and highlight what is happening. Communicate with consumers about what is happening and timing for a return,” Fechner added. “When the sandwich was taken off the menu, 63% of consumers said they were slightly/much more interested in trying the Popeyes chicken sandwich than when it was available.”

Fechner and Partridge will discuss What’s next in the chicken sandwich wars on Wednesday, June 3 at 10:00 a.m. CDT. Free registration for this webinar is now open.

This presentation is a part of the Chicken Marketing Summit series of webinars, proudly sponsored by Zoetis.

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