Popeyes 2023

Jul 6, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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Executive Summary

Popeyes is the largest player in $1B+ QSR chicken segment with 34% domestic market share, tied with KFC and more than Wingstop, Bojangles’ & Church’s combined. Its iconic “Love that Chicken from Popeyes” tagline emphasizes the emotional bond of loyal customers towards the brand’s unique positioning around a flavorful Louisiana heritage (slow cooking, served fast) that extends beyond fried bone-in chicken to sandwiches, nuggets, tenders and seafood (particularly shrimp). The chain’s core bone-in chicken is infused with a Louisiana-inspired seasoning dry rub that is applied to fresh chicken which marinates for 12 – 72 hours and is then hand-breaded. Popeyes enjoyed very strong comps in 2019 & 2020, driven by the sales of its hugely successful chicken sandwich and it is also notable that the system’s average check has increased by a significant margin over the segment average during the last 5 years. However, 2022 system comps declined -0.5% y/y on top of a -2% 2021 decline reflecting: competitive pressures around its chicken sandwich; the impact of economic pressure & necessary menu price increases on its core low-income target market; and staffing challenges. Fortunately, the chain’s sales prospects seemed to rebound with a +3.4% y/y 1Q23 comp increase, helped by its Ghost Pepper wings LTO which sold-out in 2 weeks while driving check & traffic. In any case, value is likely to play a critical role for Popeyes’ sales prospects and it is helpful that chicken prices are beginning to decline after material 2022 increases. In the meantime, management is focused on improving what is in its control, with efforts to drive operational & digital upgrades designed to boost store-level profits which is key to funding new builds and remodels. In conclusion, Popeyes has succeeded at retaining its famous chicken sandwich AUV spike with further plans to drive customer service, kitchen efficiency, and product innovation, however, the current economic challenges for its core lower-income demo requires a strong value equation which could represent a store-level profit headwind for at least the near-term.

Popeyes Market Share

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