Popeyes tests new sides and desserts

Chain looking to bolster home-meal replacement options

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen began testing new desserts and side dishes this week as part of a strategy to increase its presence in the home-meal replacement market, said Amy Alarcon, the quick-service chicken chain’s director of culinary innovation.

Alarcon said the items, which will be bundled into the Atlanta-based chain’s HMR meal options, are being tested in Memphis, Tenn.; San Antonio; and Shreveport, La.

If successful, they will be rolled out chainwide next year, she said.

“We think one of the great ways we can continue the box business sales is by providing more interesting sides and desserts,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of cool side items and desserts that are geared toward feeding a family, not just a one-off or individual in the restaurant.

“We’re trying to provide things that round out the dinner occasion a little bit more than traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, she said.”

Alarcon would not identify the side dish selections that currently are in test, but said the first dessert item is a molten chocolate lava cake that resulted from consumer testing and demand. The new lava cake is priced at $3.99 and serves four to six people.

“People asked us for it,” she said. “There were a couple of loud and clear messages from who I call the gatekeeper. I don’t want to call [that person] mom because it may not necessarily be a mom. But whoever that person is, that person who’s in charge of the dinner meal, they want you to round out the meal.

“The molten chocolate lava cake is meant to be heated at home, so you get the ‘lava’ experience,” she continued. “You still feel like you did something — even though it may have been takeout — to put a warm and nutritious meal on the table.”

Alarcon said the sides would be offered on a seasonal basis and refreshed every three to four months.

“[HMR] is something we’ve always done, what our business is designed around,” she said. “We’re just trying to give it much more of a Popeyes’ experience.”

Separately, Alarcon said that while Popeyes has discussed the possibility of entering the breakfast daypart — it currently offers some items at about 60 of its stores — that is not a current initiative for the 1,945-unit chain.

“We’ve flirted with it, but I think it will be awhile before you see us go down that path,” she said. “It’s out there in certain locations where, for whatever reasons, you need to have it. We have a lot of airport locations, and we serve breakfast in those restaurants. But it is not an easy game to get into. You’ve got to be very thoughtful about breakfast.”

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected] [3].