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Cheryl Bachelder to step down at Popeyes

CEO will leave after sale to Restaurant Brands International is complete

Cheryl Bachelder will step down as CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. after the Atlanta-based chicken chain is sold to Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International Inc., the company said Thursday.

The move is not a surprise, given that Popeyes will become part of a larger organization operating three separate brands. But it nevertheless ends one of the most successful runs by a chief executive in recent industry history.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc.

Bachelder, a former KFC executive, was named to Popeyes’ board of directors in 2006. She was named CEO the following year. At the time, Popeyes was a sleepy, regional chain with struggling sales and frustrated franchisees.

Since then, the company’s stock has quadrupled, thanks to consistently performing same-store sales. Popeyes added more than $1 billion in U.S. system sales over that time, according to Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 data.

“Cheryl’s collaborative and engaging approach to the business has driven a decade of success for the Popeyes brand and enabled the company to achieve outstanding results, putting Popeyes at the top of the quick-service restaurant industry,” John Cranor, chairman of the Atlanta-based chain’s board of directors, said in a statement.

Popeyes now has more than 2,700 restaurants in 26 countries. Restaurant Brands International, owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons, agreed to pay $1.8 billion for the chain — a multiple of 21 times cash flow, and believed to be the largest multiple ever paid for a publicly traded concept. 

Bachelder’s success earned her a place among the industry’s most respected executives. She has been named a Nation’s Restaurant News’ Golden Chain award winner, and received a coveted NRN Norman Award in 2015.

Under Bachelder, Popeyes used a collaborative approach to improve relations with franchisees, enabling the chain to promote unit growth and encourage operators to remodel locations quickly.

The company emphasized spicier chicken and its Louisiana heritage, and used innovative marketing campaigns on national cable to build awareness. 

“Cheryl created a collaborative culture among franchisees and the restaurant support team,” Howard Mangen, president of the Popeyes International Franchisee Association, said in a statement. “It’s been a true partnership that turned out to be the secret success for Popeyes. Her leadership approach was a welcome one and led to an exciting and profitable 10 years for the Popeyes brand.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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