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Chicken sandwich wars intensify — Popeyes owner tells rivals to bring it

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read
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The CEO of Popeyes parent company Restaurant Brands (QSR) Jose Cil says his cajun-inspired fast food chain is ready to defend its chicken sandwich turf amid a flurry of new unfriendly fire.

"It's not a surprise the chicken protein has been a big part of growth... We welcome all competitors to go out there," Cil told Yahoo Finance Live. “But more importantly, we welcome our guests and new guests to come out and try the Popeyes chicken sandwich. And they can choose for themselves which is the one that they want to go to.”

It's Cil's Popeyes business that arguably launched the fried chicken movement now well underway in fast food. Popeyes launched its fried chicken sandwich in August 2019, only to find it explode in cultural relevance amid a frenzy of positive reviews on social media. The popularity of the sandwich led to immediate out of stocks. Once back in stock, the sandwich continued to soar in popularity.

Popeyes posted a 13.8% same-store sales increase in 2020 in large part because of the chicken sandwich, Restaurant Brands reported on Thursday.

In this Aug. 22, 2019, photo, a chicken sandwich is seen at a Popeyes as guests wait in line, in Kyle, Texas. Police in Maryland say a man fatally stabbed another customer outside a Popeyes restaurant in a fight over the recently rereleased chicken sandwich. Police in Maryland say a man fatally stabbed another customer at a Popeyes restaurant in a fight over the recently rereleased chicken sandwich. A Prince George’s County police spokeswoman told news outlets the two men were waiting in line at an Oxon Hill Popeye’s Monday night, Nov. 4, 2019, when one of the men accused the other of cutting in front of him in a line specifically for ordering sandwiches. Police say the fight spilled outside where a 28-year-old was fatally stabbed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In this Aug. 22, 2019, photo, a chicken sandwich is seen at a Popeyes as guests wait in line, in Kyle, Texas. Police in Maryland say a man fatally stabbed another customer outside a Popeyes restaurant in a fight over the recently rereleased chicken sandwich. Police in Maryland say a man fatally stabbed another customer at a Popeyes restaurant in a fight over the recently rereleased chicken sandwich. A Prince George’s County police spokeswoman told news outlets the two men were waiting in line at an Oxon Hill Popeye’s Monday night, Nov. 4, 2019, when one of the men accused the other of cutting in front of him in a line specifically for ordering sandwiches. Police say the fight spilled outside where a 28-year-old was fatally stabbed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The attention — and sales — for Popeyes’ chicken sandwich has others eyeing a piece of the market share pie.

McDonald's (MCD) launches three new fried chicken sandwiches on Feb. 24. Meanwhile, Shake Shack (SHAK) has debuted a Korean-inspired fried chicken sandwich, and KFC is touting a revamped chicken sandwich. Wendy's says its chicken sandwich is plumper and juicier.

Even Restaurant Brands-owned Burger King is about to debut a new fried chicken sandwich. Elsewhere, Carl's Jr. is promoting new fried chicken tenders with a spicy sauce. Chick-fil-A has introduced a spicy grilled chicken sandwich.

Cil is unfazed, choosing to stay confident that the Popeyes chicken sandwich will continue to have the hearts — and wallets — of diners.

“We feel confident with the Popeyes chicken sandwich, that it'll continue to be the standard bearer, if you will, for chicken sandwiches in the space,” Cil said.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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