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Popeyes-Louisisana-Kitchen-Italy.jpg Photo courtesy of Restaurant Business International
Popeyes is modernizing its kitchen designs.

Popeyes is making 30 ‘distinct changes’ in its kitchen

Popeyes’ ‘easy-to-run’ kitchen conversions include new equipment, layouts, technology, and processes.

Earlier this year, Popeyes began testing new kitchen designs to create a more consistent customer and team member experience. During TD Cowen’s Future of the Consumer Conference Tuesday, Sami Saddiqui, CFO of parent company Restaurant Business International, said the impetus behind the initiative was simple: to modernize the chain.

“Categorically, people love Popeyes’ food. But they’ve told us the experience can be inconsistent,” he said. “As we did a bunch of research, our kitchen formats had not been updated in about a decade. In that decade, a lot has changed – the emergence of boneless chicken, digital becoming a more meaningful channel. Those shifts require a rethink.”

And so, Popeyes launched what it’s calling “easy-to-run kitchen conversions.” The company started its test in California, retrofitting new equipment, updating kitchen layouts, upgrading technology, and simplifying processes. All told, Popeyes is making 30 “distinct changes” to the kitchen, Saddiqui said. The company has added new equipment that automatically batters chicken, for instance, which is less labor intensive and frees up employees to perform other tasks.

Popeyes is now in a scaled test phase of these kitchen conversations and is starting to ramp up deployment, tweaking as it goes along, Josh Kobza, CEO of parent company Restaurant Brands International, told analysts in February.

“We’re going to do a larger deployment in the cluster in California and then we’ll do a few more throughout the course of 2024 so we can really figure out how to refine the deployment model and do it effectively market by market,” he said.

The game plan is to scale the new kitchen design to the entire system later this year and “into 2025.” The conversions can be completed within a few nights and require no restaurant downtime during the day. Franchisees have shown a lot of interest, Kobza said, adding that the main benefit is an improvement for team members, which should translate to a better guest experience through higher accuracy and faster speed. And, of course, better guest experiences combined with speedier orders translate to higher sales on paper, providing an opportunity for more momentum for the brand.

“A little innovation like that in the Popeyes system is going to go a long way,” Siddiqui said.

Popeyes’ same-store sales increased by 3.4% in Q1, while many chains were flat or down. Further, Popeyes finished 2023 with $5.5 billion in sales, a 10.2% increase over 2022 and far outpacing the QSR chicken category average of 6.5%.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

TAGS: Operations
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