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Traffic Data Quantifies Popeyes' Explosive Chicken Sandwich


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Popeyes' chicken sandwich launch resulted in major traffic.

Some new traffic data shows just how explosive the Popeyes chicken sandwich—and the re-launch in November—really was. 

On a typical summer Sunday, Popeyes gets about 75,000 visits, according to Cuebiq, a marketing measurement firm that taps into mobile user data to glean traffic insights. On August 24, the number of visits rocketed to nearly 140,000 visits, nearly double the typical Sunday. 

The reason, as the QSR world knows well, was the exceptionally popular chicken sandwich. The sandwich didn’t do much when it first launched on August 12, but when the company started a Twitter tiff with rival Chick-fil-A on August 19, things got pretty crazy. According to Cuebiq data, traffic on August 20 shot up to about 100,000 and continued to rise through the week to the high water mark just shy of 140,000. 

According to Apex Marketing Group, another marketing research firm, that was essentially $65 million in earned media. And it contributed to the best same-store sales numbers since 2014, when the company reported 10.2 percent growth for the third quarter. 

And the re-launch saw almost as impressive numbers. Timed for Sunday, November 3—a parting shot toward Chick-fil-A—the concept saw 126,000 visits. That represents 85 percent more traffic than the day before. For the remainder of re-launch week, the company saw just under 100,000 visits per day, especially incremental visits from millennials and Generation X, which are typically the minority of demographics. 

According to Michael Lippert, COO of GPS Hospitality, it was quite a ride at the 20 Popeyes locations the company operates. 

“When your sales double immediately and you’re selling 1,400 to 1,700 sandwiches a day, that’s been an incredible challenge and a lot of fun,” said Lippert. “The dynamic around that has been unbelievable.” 

He said it performed better than any national marketing program in recent memory. The company still averages about 400 sandwiches a day per restaurant, up to 700 per day at high-volume locations. By comparison, GPS sees about 200-220 Whopper items each day across the company’s roughly 400 Burger King locations. 

According to Valentina Marastoni-Bieser, EVP of marketing at Cuebiq, the chicken sandwich lifted all chicken sandwich boats to a degree. 

“The chicken sandwich craze not only affected Popeyes, but also its competitors. In fact, Chick-fil-A saw a 38 percent increase in visits from August 19-August 24, the same week that visits to Popeyes spiked during the first launch,” said Marastoni-Bieser. “That is a pretty significant boost.” 

She said the company found that 18 percent of Popeyes visitors also went to Burger King that week, 14 percent went to Wendy’s and 13 percent went to Chick-fil-A. Some 6 percent also went to KFC. Maybe they saw the line and went elsewhere, or all the talk of a fried chicken sandwich inspired them to go out for another one. Marastoni-Bieser said that raises some interesting questions for concepts when planning their next potentially explosive limited time offer. 

“The fact that Popeyes’ competitors also saw an increase in footfall is an interesting lesson for planning out what your next LTO item actually is, as it can be a double-edged sword,” said Marastoni-Bieser. “For example, do your competitors also carry a similar menu item that can be promoted as an alternative to your LTO or that can drive visits to their locations as well?” 

No doubt, Popeyes parent Restaurant Brands International is using all these learnings to tailor the next LTOs at Popeyes, Burger King and Tim Hortons. 

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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