The Popeyes chicken sandwich was only in stores for about two weeks, but it had an outsized effect on the brand and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International Inc., this quarter.
RBI is hoping to capture the internet's and eaters' attention again. This morning, the brand announced the sandwich is back starting November 3rd. Yes, that's a Sunday. The launch date is a not-so-subtle dig at Chick-fil-A, a brand that is famously closed on Sundays. Welcome to the Chicken Sandwich Wars Part II.
“This was a fantastic quarter from a sales perspective, and one that we're confident will be a significant milestone for the brands,” said Jose Cil, CEO of RBI, during the third-quarter earnings call. “The performance of the chicken sandwich far exceeded our most ambitious expectations and brought Popeyes to the national and international spotlight.”
The Toronto-based company, which is also parent to Burger King and Tim Hortons, reported earnings for the third quarter, ended September 30. Revenues rose 6% to $1.5 billion. Adjusted net income rose 13% to $337 million, or 72 cents per share, from $297 million, or 63 cents per share in the same period a year earlier.
Popeyes comparable store sales were up by 9.7%, and system-wide sales for the brand grew 15.6%.
These numbers weren't all the sandwiches' doing, said executives.
“It's worth noting that while the sales of the sandwich and buzz online was fantastic, we also saw remarkable positive reaction across-the-board in our quarter," Cil said. He noted the success of Popeyes $10 '2 Can Dine' offer and its buttermilk shrimp LTO. “This may occasionally get lost in the mix, but Popeyes is one of the only national QSR brands serving the type of seafood and our LTO in this category tend to perform really well.”
A newer menu item at Burger King is also performing well — the Impossible Burger. The brand was one of the first to jump on the plant-based protein trend.
“What's especially exciting is that the sales of the Impossible Whopper have been highly incremental and have attracted new types of guests into our restaurant,” Cil said.
“We've done a lot of research and found that the appeal is quite broad-based across several types of consumers. We see a lot of millennial and Gen Z customers who tend to really connect with the message around sustainability. We also see older guests that perhaps used to come to Burger King but haven't visited in a while.”
Burger King's comparable store sales were up 4.8%, and its system-wide sales grew 10.7%.
But plant proteins couldn't save the company's coffee-and-breakfast brand, Tim Hortons. The brand launched Beyond Meat sausage patties in some Canadian markets as an LTO and have kept the menu item on in some provinces. But comparable store sales were down 1.4%, and systemwide sales declined 0.1%.
RBI is now looking toward remodels and improved franchisee relationships for growth.
“Overhaul, we continue to feel really good about the long-term growth prospects for Tim Hortons Canada and internationally,” Cil said.
“It's a rarity in the QSR space to have the penetration Tim’s has in Canada, and we believe our positioning remains the strongest of any brand in any market across the globe. With the right mix of many improvements, investments and guest experience, including drive-thru and the activation of digital loyalty and brand messaging, we're confident that Tim’s will gain momentum. We have a healthy relationship with our owners and increase alignment over the path forward coming out of our convention. This was a challenging quarter, but we continue to be focused on delivering results and have our sleeves rolled up as we finish the year.”
Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @GloriaDawson