Way back in early 2008, Popeyes menu languished in quick-service mediocrity. A whole new management team led by Cheryl Bachelder, a one-time president of rival KFC, had been charged to steady the 1,900-unit company, but a litany of internal and external pressures complicated the task.
Same-store sales, average unit volume (AUV), and transaction counts had suffered numerous years of declines, and people downward trends placed the company at odds featuring its franchisees, many of whom considered the Atlanta-based company mismanaged and self-serving. Just as if that wasn’t enough, the Great Recession struck, spurring a precipitous drop in consumer confidence that further challenged gains.
Then, in March 2008, Popeyes founder Al Copeland, who had built the fried chicken-peddling chain from one unit right into a global enterprise of some 800 units, died at age 64. Though Copeland had not directed the brand for more than 15 years, his death seemed a symbolic public blow to your brand clamoring once and for all news-a bit of good news. “The brand hadn’t been managed well,” says Di.ck Lynch, among Bachelder’s early management hires as well as the company’s chief brand officer, “and we necessary to get back to normal.”
And that’s just what Popeyes did. Within the last eight years, the chain has become a reinvigorated, lively force within the quick-service game, shifting its results, public perception, along with its future prospects.
In 2015, Popeyes added nearly $700 million in systemwide sales for that year-leapfrogging Papa John’s to enter the very best 20 inside the QSR 50-and captured same-store sales gains of 5.7 percent at its domestic units, the seventh consecutive year of positive comp sales. The enterprise also reached two new development milestones: opening an archive 219 restaurants in 2016-125 of those within the United states-and crossing 2,500 total units, an army of restaurants scattered across the United states and over two dozen other nations around the globe.
In 1972, Copeland opened Chicken on the Run in Arabi, Louisiana, a whole new Orleans suburb on the eastern fringe of the Mississippi River. Within months of opening, lackluster sales prompted Copeland-a 1-time local doughnut magnate unafraid of bold ideas-to change course. He altered his eatery’s menu from traditional Southern-fried chicken to spicy, New Orleans-style chicken and in addition installed the Popeyes moniker, a nod to Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, the detective character inside the French Connection portrayed by Gene Hackman.
From the mid-1980s, Popeyes had been a growing phenomenon. The chain boasted greater than 500 units, including restaurants away from Usa, and had get to be the third-largest quick-service chicken chain.
But Copeland’s ambitious appetite proved too mighty. In 1991, his company was forced into bankruptcy after his 1989 purchase of rival Church’s Fried Chicken soured. The company reorganized as AFC (America’s Favorite Chicken) Enterprises shortly thereafter.
Throughout the 1990s and in to the modern day, Popeyes delivery struggled to discover solid footing. It acquired and then sold brands like Seattle’s Best Coffee and Cinnabon. It lacked direction and purpose amid a revolving door of CEOs, as well as persistent sales, profit, and store-traffic declines. Franchisees became increasingly frustrated.
When Bachelder was appointed CEO in 2007, the company was drowning in a surging wave of missteps. “It was the land of silos,” says Amy Alarcon, Popeyes’ v . p . of culinary innovation, who joined the organization in 2007. “Franchisees considered us with lots of suspicion, so we had to break through that noise and unite.”
Bachelder and her leadership team responded by introducing a Strategic Roadmap created to fuel results, unify the brand, re-establish trust with franchisees, and propel the brand’s floundering marketplace standing.
There was the launch of the latest products, including snack items and lighter alternatives to the core bone-in chicken offering; a shop remodeling project; new menuboards; and a new advertising agency. The multi-million-dollar efforts were created to drive traffic and prevent consistent same-store sales declines.
“We weren’t a national advertiser in 2008, and were only in approximately 30 percent from the United states,” Lynch says, calling the company’s advertising spend “completely inefficient.”
Shortly after, Annie, a fictional character played by actress Deidrie Henry, became the brand’s new spokeswoman, a situation designed to share blunt discuss Popeyes’ authentic and tasty food. There npdcjl also a revised name, as Popeyes dropped its “Chicken & Biscuits” tag in support of “Louisiana Kitchen,” an effort to celebrate the brand’s heritage of Louisiana-inspired home cooking.
“We desired to tell the brand’s story and present popeyes chicken menu prices brand relevance … and that started with bringing the manufacturer back to its Louisiana roots and making it authentic. We believed we couldn’t tell our brand story without having a new brand identity,” says Lynch, who developed brand strategy and innovation plans for concepts like Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings before his arrival at Popeyes in 2008.