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Sunday Strategist: Popeyes Knew Exactly What It Was Doing

Breaking down the boldest bets in business

The chicken in Popeyes sandwich.

The chicken in Popeyes sandwich.

Photographer: Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

People waited for hours in lines that stretched down the block. The food website Thrillist called it a “tiny miracle” and The New Yorker deemed it “fantastic.” There was no national ad campaign, no celebrity sponsorship, and yet people shared more than 40,000 Instagram posts and hundreds of thousands of tweets. All this for a $3.99 chicken sandwich from Popeyes. 

To understand what’s going on with Popeyes you have to first understand what’s going on with chicken. Chicken is cheaper than beef and theoretically healthier (though not if you fry it, of course). According to the National Chicken Council, the average American eats about 10 pounds more chicken than they did a decade ago. This poultry boon has helped revitalize KFC and turn Chick-fil-A into the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S., behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks. Last year the average Chick-fil-A restaurant brought in about $4.6 million, more than three times that of the average KFC.