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With U.S. comp sales above 40 percent, Popeyes pivots to new design, new chapter of growth

Brand, store refreshes point to chicken chain’s ‘Modern Renaissance

Popeyes is going through an evolution in design, culinary approach and marketing. According to the QSR chicken chain, it is going through a “Modern Popeyes Renaissance.” The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich has segued the 48 year-old chain into the next chapter of growth. For sure, the sandwich has been a darling, helping lift interest in the brand and earning the chain respect among a cadre of new followers. With only 3,300 restaurants across the globe, Popeyes remains underpenetrated in several domestic and international markets.

U.S.comparable (comp) sales during the third week of May rose above 40 percent from last year. Miami-based Popeyes also posted U.S. comp sales of 37.9 percent in 4Q 2019 and 29.2 percent in 1Q 2020, despite the ongoing health crisis, dining room closures and restrictions.

Its Cajun roots, emphasizes the QSR, is a point of differentiation. Popeyes aims to continue to offer innovative products and family meals. Through menu innovation, more winning products will rise up over the coming years.

An investment in mobile ordering and digital channels has yielded a triple-digit increase in delivery sales between the first quarter of this year and last. Delivery capacity and radius has become an important focus for the QSR as many people don’t actually live near a Popeyes store.

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A remodeled store in Marrero, La., located outside of New Orleans, where it was founded, reflects a new approach to design and one that is being tested this year. The company described it this way, “The powder coated metals in the furniture and counter design are inspired by the iconic Saint Charles Market Car, utilitarian spaces and handcrafted details nod to the creative culture of the Bywater in New Orleans, and the personality and artwork celebrate the creole heritage that’s been passed down over generations.”

Jones Knowles Ritchie, an international design firm, has spearheaded a visual brand refresh, which started with the logo. A new, contemporary typeface replaces the playful version that existed previously. Design firms Brand Bureau and Linehouse will power store redesigns in the U.S. and around the globe.

Popeyes' packaging reflects a contemporary brand identity with a nod to its New Orleans heritage. Image by Popeyes.
Popeyes’ packaging reflects a contemporary brand identity with a nod to its New Orleans heritage. Image by Popeyes.

New packaging, highlighting a hand-drawn brand pattern in orange and white, is a nod to its Louisiana culture. The design appears on new to-go bags, cups and boxes, as well as uniforms and other merchandise. The vibrant orange is another focal point of its Modern Renaissance image, reflecting a joy and reenergizing of the brand.

As an example, on May 15, the brand opened its first flagship restaurant in Shanghai, China. The store sends a signal of Popeyes’ expanding presence around the world. “Equipped with high end technology and an elevated store design, but still rooted in the brand’s Louisiana heritage, leveraging warm woods and neons inspired by New Orleans’ Bourbon Street,” Popeyes announced.

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In one year, the Popeyes brand delivered over 25 billion earned media impressions, and that is more than it achieved in the past two decades. In addition, new campaigns have focused on its fan appreciation and heritage via new agency of record GUT Miami.

A recently-launched “NOLA STRONG” meal, which included12 pieces of fried chicken, two classic sides, 6 biscuits, a Popeyes brand “NOLA STRONG” t-shirt and hat as part of the purchase, sold for $28. The proceeds went to to Second Harvest Food Bank. Furthermore, the chain donated to Feed the Front Line NOLA and also donated prepared Sunday meals.

Popeyes is plotting the course for the future, with new sustainability initiatives, including removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from artificial sources from its chicken products. This plan is part of parent company Restaurant Brands International’s Restaurant Brands for Good platform. New products with a stronger natural-ingredient emphasis will be tested by the end of 2020. Moreover, becoming more environmentally-friendly, Popeyes will remove all Styrofoam packaging domestically by early 2021. A reduction in the use of antibiotics in chickens will also take place next year.

Photo credit: Popeyes (preview featured image, inline image)

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