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Popeyes makes LTOs a priority

Dick Lynch, chief marketing officer, and Amy Alarcon, director of culinary innovation

Editor's note: This story has been revised with a corrected date for Popeyes' Dip'n Chick'n release.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has introduced five limited-time offers this year, including a $3.99 Dip’n Chick’n deal that debuts Sept. 26 and includes chicken breast medallions, Cajun fries and a biscuit.

Dip’n Chick’n follows last month’s Rip’n Chick’n limited-time offer, also priced at $3.99. A Red Hot Popcorn Chicken special rolled out in February, Garlic Butter Shrimp and Fries in April and Firecracker Shrimp in July.

The LTO strategy seems to be working. The Atlanta-based chain says same-store sales rose 2.4 percent for the first half of the year, and that Popeyes is outperforming the rest of the quick-service chicken category.

RELATED: Popeyes Wicked Chicken wins MenuMasters 2011 Best Limited-Time Offer

Nation’s Restaurant News spoke with Dick Lynch, Popeyes’ chief marketing officer, and Amy Alarcon, Popeyes’ director of culinary innovation, to find out how the 1,580-unit AFC Enterprises Inc. subsidiary crafts its limited-time offers.

How do you develop your LTOs?

Lynch: We harden up around our Louisiana positioning. This team steers the brand back to its core DNA, which is Louisiana, and we’re very careful that the LTO has to have some link back to Louisiana. The three strategic platforms are value, portability and something Louisiana.

What’s unique about the LTOs?

Alarcon: One of the things we do is hand-breading. And we also marinate. We’re dealing with a relatively cost-affordable protein, and we layer in the unique flavors. We’re looking for unique and fun shapes to make, and we stay away from just another chicken nugget or boneless wing. People look at Rip’n and say, “Wow, what is that?” We’re marinating that by hand with spices like habanero chiles, cayenne, and a blend of white and black pepper. With Dip’n, we wanted to make chicken in medallion shapes and an oversize portion.

How do you decide for how long to run an LTO?

Lynch: Typically when the novelty runs off. LTOs are, by nature, novelties. We have found the point where they fall off and when the demand starts diminishing. We plan for that, we plan the media and we plan the supply that way. The product runs out when the media runs out. We are always scrutinizing the balance between the core menu items and LTOs.

How do your departments coordinate LTO efforts?

Alarcon: We’ll start with an idea. For example, it’s bone-free and we look at how do you cut it?

Lynch: We have a disciplined approach to new product ideas. We’ll work with the culinary team. We’ll get 50 to 80 ideas. Then we’ll do test marketing and go into a second test market. The strategic needs launch a domino effect of idea generation product and refinement.

Alarcon: We’ll go into an exploratory phase. We look everywhere to come up with an idea with a shape or flavor profile. We look for bold flavors — not spicy. We’re into battering and breading products and we play to our strength.

How did you come up with Rip’n Chick’n [a chicken breast partially cut into tearable tenders]?

Alarcon: It’s kind of a blooming-onion idea for lack of any other description. It’s fun. It’s interactive. It lets people play with their food. It’s portable. It’s chicken-centric and people like our sauces. It’s about the dipping and the sauce experience that goes with it. We go for the balance.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @AlanSnelNRN

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