An inside look at how the Louisiana brand is becoming the next big global quick service restaurant
Miami, FL (Restaurant News Release) Founded in 1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Popeyes® brand has been one of America’s best kept secrets for the last 48 years. Long before breaking the internet with their Chicken Sandwich launch, the brand’s flavorful Cajun recipes and spices have been loved by a devout following, recognized by celebrities, and respected among world-renowned chefs. Everything changed in 2019 when the historic launch of the Chicken Sandwich became the tipping point for a larger Popeyes® renaissance around the world.
This story is about not one, but the seven reasons, why Popeyes® is the next global powerhouse.
1. Business Evolution: Fastest Growing Sales in the Industry
In 2019, one of the most successful launches in quick service restaurants (QSR) history, the Popeyes® Chicken Sandwich, impelled the brand to impressive US comparable sales trending in positive-low forties percent in third week of May up from flat in the second half of March 2020. The success does not stop there, U.S. Comparable Sales growth of 37.9% in Q4 2019 and 29.2% in Q1 2020 (despite COVID-19). This sales growth also made Popeyes® U.S. restaurants even more profitable. Popeyes® continues to upstage other QSR rivals, remaining a favorite in the category. Partly due to its Cajun roots, but also due to its devotion to quality food like you cook at home, strong results on digital channels, and a variety of menu offerings for families. Popeyes® has rallied a movement of fried chicken lovers by quickly becoming a fan favorite amongst a wide variety of guests who had not considered or tried the brand before.
2. Product Quality & Innovation: No Compromises
Some quick service restaurants take shortcuts on quality. But Popeyes® is used to being patient, starting by marinating their chicken for 12 hours in bold Louisiana seasonings and the Popeyes® Chicken Sandwich is no exception. The Popeyes® Chicken Sandwich was exhaustively perfected by its culinary team for 2 long years until it was finally launched in August 2019. The new sandwich expanded the Popeyes® appeal beyond the traditional fried chicken consumers to a much broader group and it was sold out in 3 weeks.
3. Design: Modernization and Unique Flagship in China
To further spread the product love to even more guests, it was time for Popeyes® to translate its Louisiana roots in a more modern approach by completely redesigning the brand’s visual identity and restaurant image. Jones Knowles Ritchie, the international award-winning design firm, led the brand’s visual identity refresh which started with the logo. The old playful Popeyes® logo has been matured with a contemporary typeface that elevates the brand and reflects the culinary depth that goes into making the Popeyes® signature foods.
Fans can expect to see the new visual identity continue to roll out across Popeyes® restaurants from packaging including to-go bags, cups and boxes, as well as uniforms and other merchandise. The hand-drawn brand pattern featured on the packaging reflects the vibrancy of Louisiana culture and the unadulterated joy that goes into making Popeyes® food.
In the United States, Popeyes® recently opened its first remodeled restaurant in Marrero, LA, just outside its hometown of New Orleans. The powder coated metals in the furniture and counter design are inspired by the iconic Saint Charles Market Car, utilitarian spaces and handcrafted details nod to the creative culture of the Bywater in New Orleans, and the personality and artwork celebrate the creole heritage that’s been passed down over generations. This new image is being piloted in the U.S., with aims to expand nationally across existing and new restaurants.
The Popeyes® restaurants will now start to look different throughout the U.S. and around the world after a collaborative redesign, in partnership with the design firms Brand Bureau and Linehouse. On May 15th, the brand opened its first flagship restaurant in Shanghai, China. Equipped with high end technology and an elevated store design, but still rooted in the brand’s Louisiana heritage, leveraging warm woods and neons inspired by New Orleans’ Bourbon Street.
4. Global Expansion: Rapid Growth in Asia, Europe & South America
After successfully opening in Brazil, Spain and other international markets over the past 18 months, the brand opened their first flagship store in Shanghai, further allowing guests around the world to enjoy Popeyes® now famous Chicken Sandwich and many other iconic Popeyes® menu items. This flagship location in Shanghai marks the first restaurant in the brand’s rapid planned development in mainland China, where the goal is to open over 1,500 restaurants across the country. The brand expansion is also aiming to enter additional markets in 2021.
5. Digital Focus: Mobile App & Delivery Channels
Despite having 3,300 restaurants in the United States and around the world, many people still find it hard to find a Popeyes® close to them. That’s why the brand has been focusing on expanding its mobile ordering capabilities and delivery radius in not only its own Popeyes® app, but also with third party partners. Delivery sales were up in the triple digits in Q1 year-over-year and the company expects delivery to be an even larger chunk of the sales, democratizing access to Popeyes® products.
Creative Strategy: Proudly Authentic & Socially Driven
After having a traditional advertising approach for many years, Popeyes® recently adjusted their creative strategy by highlighting their loyal fan love and tapping into pop culture moments. With a new agency of record, GUT Miami, Popeyes® has been successfully reacting in real time with campaigns like; selling out of its uniform online as a response to a well-known socially relevant merchandise collection, supporting its hometown with “NOLA Strong” and putting real consumers and their amazing love for the brand in the spotlight of its advertisements. In one year, the brand acquired over 25 billion earned media impressions, which is more than what the brand achieved in the past 2 decades.
Sustainability: Doing the Right Thing
Popeyes® is known for its culinary tradition and craveable chicken, now people will start to know more what’s behind the food. As part of the Restaurant Brands for Good platform under Popeyes® parent company Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the brand has initiated the process of looking to remove all colors, flavors, and preservatives from artificial sources from its chicken offerings. The brand will also look to remove antibiotics important to human medicine (as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO)) from its chicken in the U.S. This product evolution will preserve the original taste and will start hitting the market in tests by the end of this year in the US. The Popeyes® packaging is also evolving to reduce its impact on the environment by removing all Styrofoam packaging from the US by early 2021.
Popeyes® is focused on these seven initiatives to grow the brand beyond the Chicken Sandwich internet moment. From a focus on business evolution, product quality, redesigned look, global expansion, digital growth, and creative strategy- Popeyes® is well on its way to becoming the next great global quick service restaurant brand.
Founded in New Orleans in 1972, Popeyes® has more than 45 years of history and culinary tradition. Popeyes® distinguishes itself with a unique New Orleans style menu featuring spicy chicken, chicken tenders, fried shrimp, and other regional items. The chain’s passion for its Louisiana heritage and flavorful authentic food has allowed Popeyes® to become one of the world’s largest chicken quick service restaurants with over 3,300 restaurants in the U.S. and around the world. To learn more about the brand, please visit the Popeyes® brand website at www.popeyes.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Alison Brod Marketing + Communication