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Popeyes sales surge an eye-popping 34% amid chicken sandwich craze

Heidi Chung

Popeyes (QSR) is giving investors something to love.

The popular chicken sandwich drove same-store sales of 34% during the fourth quarter at Popeyes — crushing Wall Street expectations of 15%.

“Popeyes launched an iconic Chicken Sandwich that has proven to be a game-changer for the brand in every way,” Popeyes parent company Restaurant Brands CEO Jose Cil said in a statement.

Popeyes jaw-dropping fourth quarter comes on the heels of a pretty impressive third quarter when the chicken chain reported same-store sales growth of 9.7%.

After two years of innovation, Popeyes launched its first-ever chicken sandwich Aug. 12, 2019. With four seemingly simple ingredients — a buttered brioche bun, cajun-inspired mayonnaise, a crispy fried chicken filet and naturally-brined pickles — Popeyes had no idea it was about to change the fast food chicken sandwich game in America.

“This is a big moment for our brand. This has been the biggest launch in the history of Popeyes, if not QSR,” Popeyes America’s President Felipe Athayde told Yahoo Finance in an interview at the time. “It’s going to be a cultural phenomenon. We just launched the iPhone of chicken sandwiches.”

(Yahoo Finance/David Foster)

The chicken sandwich craze

After a Twitter feud between rivals Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s (WEN), the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich went viral and sold out in stores in just two short weeks.

The chicken chain was expecting the supply to last for at least three months, but the unintended viral social media attention drove huge levels of traffic to stores and wiped out chicken supplies within weeks. It took Popeyes about three months to bring back the chicken sandwich on Nov. 3, 2019.

Here were the main numbers for Restaurant Brands’ fourth quarter, compared to Bloomberg estimates:

  • Revenue: $1.48 billion vs. $1.47 billion expected

  • Adjusted earnings per share: 75 cents vs. 73 cents expected

  • Burger King same-store sales: +2.8% vs. +3.4% expected

  • Popeyes same-store sales: +34.4% vs. +15% expected

  • Tim Hortons same-store sales: -4.3% vs. -2.6% expected

"Burger King delivered its strongest year of restaurant growth in the last two decades,” Cil said. “At Tim Hortons, our performance did not reflect the incredible power of our brand and it is clear that we have a large opportunity to refocus on our founding values and what has made us famous with our guests over the years, which will be the basis for our plan in 2020.”

Shares of Restaurant Brands were 3.35% higher in pre-market trading, as of 7:44 a.m. ET. The earnings conference call with management kicks off at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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