Popeyes Just Made A Pretty Big Announcement About Their Most Coveted Item On The Menu
After debuting on August 12th of this year, the Popeyes Crispy Chicken Sandwich—now widely known as, simply, The Sandwich—sold out in just two weeks, creating a frenzy among fans and employees (both online and IRL). For weeks, the drama borne of the viral phenomenon sizzled on screens everywhere, and the initial buzz about The Sandwich has barely had time to die down.
However, after a few months’ hiatus, we are overjoyed to announce that The Sandwich will return to 150 Popeyes menus next month.
According to Guillermo Perales, the CEO of Sun Holdings, Inc. (a franchisee that operates hundreds of Popeyes, Golden Corrals, and several other well-known brands), Popeyes will likely add two new employees per store, just to keep up with the mania around the return of The Sandwich. Overall, this means that roughly 400 more staff members will be added to the Popeyes payroll, all in order to meet this very specific, very spicy demand.
Felipe Athayde, president of Popeyes for the US market, said, “We had very aggressively forecast the demand, and we thought we wouldn’t have any problems at all, at least until the end of September.” Much to his surprise, the chain had sold out of that original inventory in just two weeks.
“The first time, they weren’t ready,” said Perales. Well, Guillermo, the world wasn’t ready, either.
It’s not hyperbolic to say that Twitter exploded with the first wave of Crispy Chicken Sandwich hype.
Popeyes and Chik-fil-A tweeted back and forth at length, the latter throwing shade about the notion that their signature sandwich—strikingly similar to Popeye’s, sans mayo—was superior. (Chik-fil-A also claims to have literally created the chicken sandwich, which is utterly incorrect; more on that below.) To catch up on this “conversation,” you can peep (no pun intended) the following hashtags: #ChickenWars, #ChickenSandwichWars, and #ChickenSandwichTwitter.
Of course, this exchange led to ample discussion about which sandwich actually did have the superior flavor; but the discourse quickly evolved to cover topics such as Chik-fil-A’s controversial politics, factory farming, and inhumane labor practices (including the exploitation of Popeyes’ own employees, many of whom were working 60-hour weeks at the time). Meanwhile, the #ChickenWars garnered so much attention that Popeyes and Chik-fil-A sales continued to rise—as of right now, Chik-fil-A is the third-largest restaurant chain in the entire US.
According to Reuters, Apex Marketing Group—a Michigan-based advertising consultancy—reported that Popeyes received an estimated $23.25 million in free advertising as a result of this online mayhem.
In a sense, this craze seems almost inevitable, as the chicken sandwich plays an integral role in the culinary identity of the United States. It’s difficult to trace the true origin of this delicious and iconic treat, but the inception of fried chicken (in the context of our country, anyway) is linked to Scottish settlers and West African slaves—the customs of two very different traditions adapting their cuisine to life in the American South.
As for the chicken sandwich, specifically, Donna Battle Pierce, a food journalist at Ebony, found an ad in a 1936 newspaper featuring a chicken sandwich special at the Booker T Cafe in small-town Topeka, Kansas. Battle Pierce acknowledges the cultural implications of the rise in popularity of the chicken sandwich. She defines it as a soul food staple steeped in Black US history, asserting that it entered the mainstream in the mid-20th century via white-owned empires like Kentucky Fried Chicken (who, of course, never credited their successes to fried chicken’s complex historical roots).
Whether you are a fan of Chik-fil-A’s recipe over Popeyes’ (or vice versa), there is no arguing the ubiquity of fried chicken in the modern landscape of US cuisine. It may be surprising to learn of the chicken sandwich’s complicated past, but that only proves its importance in the present.
So, what about now? After a brief reprieve from the August madness, and with plans for greater reinforcements in every Popeyes store, are we prepared for the wonders to come?
Cole Saladino / Thrillist
Although Popeyes has had to reevaluate their approach to The Sandwich (they’ve been working to recruit new chicken suppliers in order to ensure sufficient quantities of meat for the upcoming release), it’s clear that the next wave will bring much joy to the public. Everyone who gets their hands on one will be ecstatic. Of course, we hope they don’t run out of stock again, but if that happens, Twitter will certainly have a good time. Either way, we can’t wait.
After all: The chicken sandwich is more than just a chicken sandwich—it has emerged as a hot topic, a marketing campaign, a sacrament. If the first run of Popeye’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich is any indication, the answer is yes. We are so, so ready for all that juicy, pickly goodness.
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