Following the success of Popeyes’ expansion to Spain and Switzerland, the cult-favorite chicken fast food chain announced plans to launch in the UK later this year, with the goal of opening hundreds of other locations as a part of an international expansion. The news comes about a year and a half after Popeyes’ chicken sandwich went viral, as it hopes to bring the craze across the globe.
Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the parent company of Popeyes, has had mediocre overseas success to date but hopes the expansion will replicate the success Popeyes has found in the US. In just one year, Popeyes sold 250 million chicken sandwiches in the US after launching the product in August 2019. The seemingly ordinary chicken sandwich ignited a frenzy that sparked long lines, sellouts and even fistfights across America.
“We’re excited to introduce our iconic Louisiana-style chicken to a new population in the world that already celebrates and loves bold and delicious flavors,” said David Shear, President of RBI, in a press release.
The fast food chain is expected to open its first UK restaurant later this year, with the Popeyes expansion also targeting around 30 countries, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Outside of Asia, Australia and Mexico are on the docket too. Popeyes is currently one of the largest fast food chicken restaurants with over 3,400 locations in 25 countries around the world, with the latest announcement marking an even greater international expansion.
Popeyes’ expansion to China — where KFC is a cultural fixture as the country’s largest chain — has seen initial success with its debut in Shanghai bringing in a line of 2,000 people. Popeyes hopes to reach 1,500 locations in the next ten years, which would boost its locations by about 50 percent. Jose Cil, CEO of RBI, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview, “Customers love chicken in that part of the world,” adding, “We think there’s a huge opportunity for us by providing an alternative” to “the biggest chicken player in the world.”
The international expansion is perhaps an attempt by RBI to improve sales, as its other brands, including Burger King and Tim Hortons, have struggled during the pandemic. However, Popeyes has found consistent success since it was acquired by RBI in 2017, growing by a remarkable 15 percent last year and bringing in $556 million in sales.
While trends come and go in the fast food industry, RBI is making a bet that the chicken sandwich craze is here to stay — and it’s easy to see why. More and more fast food players, some of which are not known for chicken menu items, have been entering the chicken sandwich wars, including Taco Bell and Shake Shack. Not to mention the established chicken sandwich purveyors, like Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and KFC, who have been vying for customer loyalty for years. Add to that the chicken boom, with more people around the world consuming poultry at a higher rate than ever before.
With the victory of its chicken sandwich, Popeyes hopes to become the first choice for chicken sandwiches globally.