Will GAP pledge foil success of Popeyes’ new sandwich?

With so much frenzy around the new chicken sandwich from Popeyes, it would appear the chain has struck gold.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Roy Graber)
(Roy Graber)

With so much frenzy around the new chicken sandwich from Popeyes, it would appear the chain has struck gold.

My family joined the fray on Saturday while passing through a nearby city at lunchtime. We decided even before we left home that we would stop in and check out what all the hype is about.

Upon arrival at Popeyes, we saw a packed parking lot and a drive-through line that was backed up so far, we could barely even enter the lot. Inside, the line to order was practically to the door. We went inside anyway and scouted one empty table. My wife said she’d go sit down and save it for us, and of course I knew what to order for her.

The line moved along quickly and we got our food in relatively short order, which was a pleasant surprise.

And what we found was the sandwich was indeed a product worthy of all the raves. While Popeyes was already a rival of Chick-fil-A in the chicken quick service restaurant (QSR) arena, this sandwich and the online buzz upped the game.

In my mind, the Popeyes sandwich was far better than any food I had ever eaten at Chick-fil-A, or any other chicken sandwich I had eaten at other QSRs. My wife’s assessment was the same as mine.

The flavor of the sandwich (although I’ll admit I picked off the pickles as I always do when having a sandwich or burger) was outstanding, and I couldn’t help but be impressed about the thickness and juiciness of the chicken breast meat inside the bun.

We knew after that experience, the frequency of our meals at Popeyes would increase.

The future of the Popeyes sandwich

Without doubt, the new chicken sandwich has put Popeyes at the forefront of people’s minds as a dining option, and the sandwich will undoubtedly be a product the chain will want to keep around.

Like with any new product, the buzz will die down and lines at Popeyes restaurants will likely normalize in the not-too-distant future. But there is no doubt in my mind this sandwich will remain central to the restaurant’s fare.

But what the parent company of Popeyes, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), may not realize is it may have earlier sabotaged itself for sustained success of the sandwich before it was even developed.

RBI, in 2017, announced that by 2024, all of the chicken sourced for the company would meet Global Animal Partnership (GAP) standards. At the time, RBI was the parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons, but it had not yet acquired Popeyes, although it had announced its intent to acquire the chain about a month earlier.

GAP standards call for, among other things, slower growing birds with smaller breasts than traditional broilers. Proponents of GAP chicken also say it is more flavorful.

To me, the essence of this sandwich is the size of the breast meat and the flavor and seasoning. But if GAP-approved broiler breeds are used, it seems highly unlikely the sandwich will be the same once the GAP commitment is fulfilled.

I’m not sure if the decision-makers at RBI realize this yet.

It would seem some sort of redevelopment of the sandwich will be needed once RBI fulfills the promise it made about GAP-certified chicken.

Popeyes has already captured lightning in a bottle once with its new sandwich, but I’m not sure the chain can do it again.

In the meantime, get out and enjoy a Popeyes sandwich as it was meant to be.

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