Popeyes ties 2021 sales decrease to chicken competition

U.S. same store sales for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen declined 2% in 2021 due to the success of new chicken sandwiches from foodservice competitors, Restaurant Brands International, the quick service chain’s parent company, said in a fourth quarter and 2021 yearly earnings call.

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HUDSON, WI/USA - JUNE 7, 2019: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen exterior. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is an American chain of fried chicken fast food restaurants.
HUDSON, WI/USA - JUNE 7, 2019: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen exterior. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is an American chain of fried chicken fast food restaurants.
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U.S. same store sales for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen declined 2% in 2021 due to the success of new chicken sandwiches from foodservice competitors, Restaurant Brands International, the quick service chain’s parent company, said in a fourth quarter and 2021 yearly earnings call.

“There’s a lot of competition, that’s part of the business,” Jose Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, told analysts on the call. “But I think we have a differentiated product with our chicken sandwich as well as our nuggets that were launched and a lot in the innovation pipeline on hand-held chicken.”

Reduced store hours and service modes caused by labor challenges and supply shortages, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, also contributed to the sales decline.

“Ongoing labor challenges led to reduced operating hours and service modes, impacting comparable sales by roughly 1%,” Cil said. “In addition, chicken sandwich volumes remain pressured by competitors, which as you may recall, started making their sandwich debuts in early 2021.”

Chicken sandwich introductions skyrocket in 2021

Popeyes saw sales soar with the 2019 launch of their chicken sandwich, propelling foodservice into a battle that consumers termed the chicken sandwich war.

The brand’s quick service competitors worked to develop their own chicken offering, with 95 new chicken sandwiches entering the market between January and June 2021. Notably, McDonald’s added the crispy chicken sandwich to menus, which helped boost consolidated revenue 57% for the brand in 2021 compared to the year before.

Taco Bell even got in on the chicken sandwich action.  In August 2021, the brand unveiled the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. Described as “fluffy like a sandwich, but folded like a taco,” the offering featured all white meat crispy chicken marinated with jalapeno buttermilk, seasoned with Mexican spices and rolled in a crunchy tortilla chip coating. 

Regardless of the new chicken competition in the market, Cil remains confident about Popeyes.

“The key for Popeyes in the U.S. will be to continue to deliver the great-tasting products that we have and do so in a really efficient way in our restaurants,” Cil said.

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