Chicken sandwich still fattening Popeyes’ sales, wooing Chick-fil-A diners

NOTE: Bloomberg Second Measure launched a new and exclusive transaction dataset in July 2022. Our data continues to be broadly representative of U.S. consumers. As a result of this panel change, however, we recommend using only the latest posts in assessing metrics, and do not support referring to historical blog posts to infer period-over-period comparisons.

The August debut of Popeyes’ fried chicken sandwich broke supply chains and nearly broke Twitter. Now, new data shows it also broke recent sales records and attracted new customers—including an unusually high number of Chick-fil-A diners. And sales remain elevated, even weeks after the sandwich ran out.

The now famous fried chicken sandwich first appeared in Popeyes restaurants Aug. 12, and the company’s sales jumped nearly 14 percent above the weekly average from the previous 12 months. A week later, the sammie ignited a Twitter feud with Chick-fil-A that caught America’s attention. Sales that week soared to 63 percent above average—the biggest one-week spike Popeyes has seen in at least the last seven years.

The demand was so great that Popeyes ran out of sandwiches on Aug. 27. Sales have fallen since, but they still remained 17 percent above average the week of Sept. 16, more than a month after the phenom food’s debut. Popeyes promises the sandwich will return, but so far, no date has been announced.

Hype attracted first-time customers

During each of the last two weeks of August (a.k.a. peak sandwich days), about 5 percent of Popeyes customers were new to the chain. (Or, at least they hadn’t eaten there since before 2012.) This is a jump from an average week in the last 12 months, when 3.5 percent of customers were first-timers.

More Chick-fil-A fans flock to Popeyes

Perhaps even more telling is how many of Popeyes’ weekly customers were also Chick-fil-A diners. In an average week in the last 12 months, less than 4 percent of Chick-fil-A patrons also made a purchase at Popeyes in the same week. But, the week of Aug. 19, when Popeyes’ sandwich went viral on Twitter, that number jumped to more than 6 percent. It was a 69-percent increase and an indication that Americans were eager to see what all the fuss was about and try both chicken chains for themselves. (Second Measure’s data does not fully capture Popeyes or Chick-fil-A sales that originated with meal delivery services.)

Chick-fil-A’s sales still soar above Popeyes’

In the frenzy to crown the winner of the #ChickenWars, it’s easy to forget that—sandwich or no—Chick-fil-A’s sales are much, much higher than Popeyes’. During Popeyes’ best week of Aug. 19, they were still 283 percent higher. In fact, Chick-fil-A is the fifth largest restaurant chain in the country by sales, and Popeyes barely pecks into the top 25.

Though the sandwich gave Popeyes’ bottom line an impressive boost, it didn’t cause much of a flap for Chick-fil-A. The brand’s sales dipped slightly the week of Aug. 19, but even then, they were still more than 7 percent above Chick-fil-A’s weekly sales average.

Other restaurants give a cluck

As America waits for its new favorite delicacy to land at Popeyes again, other quick-service restaurants are jumping on the chicken sandwagon. McDonald’s just debuted its new spicy BBQ chicken sandwich, and KFC is testing fried-chicken-between-glazed-donuts in select markets.

In an attempt to keep its newfound customers returning, Popeyes has added a seasonal dessert—the pumpkin cream cheese pie—to its menus in some cities. But if that’s not enough, it is offering an option for anyone who can’t wait to get their hands on a chicken sandwich. The chain is presently “allowing guests to bring in their own buns, order its three-piece tenders and make their own chicken sandwiches right there on the spot.”

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