Popeyes is bringing its fried chicken to the UK, and it plans to open 350 restaurants over the next 10 years

Popeyes chicken sandwich
Popeyes is a major player in the chicken sandwich wars.

  • Fried-chicken chain Popeyes plans to open its first UK restaurant later this year, it said Tuesday.
  • Popeyes hasn’t decided on its first location, but plans to open 350 UK branches within 10 years.
  • Popeyes, which kickstarted the chicken-sandwich wars, has more than 3,400 restaurants globally.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Popeyes, the fried-chicken chain, said it would open its first UK restaurant by the end of 2021, and that it planned to open hundreds more over the next decade.

The US chain – a major player in the fast-food industry’s chicken sandwich wars – planned to open 350 restaurants across the UK by 2031, it said Tuesday.

David Shear, president international at Popeyes parent company Restaurant Brands International (RBI), told Insider that the company hadn’t yet decided where the first restaurant would be, but that the sites would be spread across both suburban and city-center locations.

Read more: Smashburger president lays out why the brand is looking for prime real estate, not ghost kitchen space

People would be able to order food for delivery through Popeyes’ own app or through other delivery services, Shear said.

Shear said that it’s too early to say whether the new UK restaurants would have food lockers, but Burger King, which has the same parent company, is rolling them out at its sites.

Popeyes chicken
Popeyes is best known for its fried chicken.

The menu at the chain, founded in New Orleans in 1972, is dominated by fried chicken, which Popeyes marinates for 12 hours, and you can buy it in a sandwich or on its own. It also sells other items such as fried shrimp, red beans and rice, and a flounder sandwich.

When asked whether the UK restaurants or menus would differ from those in the US, Shear simply said that Popeyes would “differentiate ourselves just based on product quality … You get what I believe is the best, juiciest, crispiest fried chicken anywhere in the world.”

The UK is set to be Popeyes’ fourth European market, after launching in Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey. The brand already has more than 3,400 restaurants across 29 countries, and is planning a huge expansion in China, where it opened its first restaurant in May.

It’s also opened restaurants in Brazil, and plans to open hundreds of restaurants in Mexico, too.

Popeyes China
Popeyes has restaurants in 29 countries, including China

In October, RBI said it planned to open a Tim Hortons branch in “every major city and town” in the UK by late 2022.

Across its three chains, RBI owns more than 27,000 restaurants around the world, and CEO Jose Cil told investors in August that it planned to grow this to 40,000.

Other US fast-food and fast-casual chains have opened restaurants in the UK, too. Chipotle only has restaurants in London, and Shake Shack has just stuck to major cities, whereas Taco Bell, Five Guys, and Baskin Robbins have a bigger presence.

Popeyes was credited with starting the chicken sandwich wars in 2019, when its sandwich became an instant success following huge social-media buzz. It sold out just two weeks after launch, and the chain sold 250 million of the sandwiches within its first year of launch, Shear told Insider.

“The chicken was incomparably crispy, juicy, and fresh, and all the elements of the sandwich were well balanced,” Irene Jiang wrote at the time in a review for Insider. “Each bite was bursting with flavor.”

Popeyes will be the last of fast-food conglomerate RBI’s three fast-food chains to launch in the UK market, following both Burger King and Tim Hortons.

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Chick-fil-A is still the chicken sandwich king among people ordering delivery

Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich
  • Chick-fil-A is the most popular delivery choice among chicken sandwich sellers.
  • The chain had a 45% market share in December, with Popeyes in a distant second.
  • The crowded chicken sandwich world continues to grow as more brands introduce menu items.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In the ongoing chicken sandwich wars, Chick-fil-A is easily the delivery winner with 45% of the market share.

Fast food brands have been competing in the red-hot chicken sandwich segment since August 2019, when Popeyes introduced a fried chicken sandwich. Online spats and snarky tweets quickly created a rivalry between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A in the months since. 

But despite the ongoing competition between the two top chicken sandwich chains, Chick-fil-A has been the nearly undisputed winner in online orders for nearly two years. The chain’s streak was only broken briefly in January 2020, when Popeyes overtook it in market share, according to data from Edison Trends.

In December 2020, the most recent month Edison has data for, Chick-fil-A was the clear winner with 45% of online order market share. Popeyes was a distant second with 17%, only barely beating McDonald’s 16%.

chicken sandwich wars feb 2021 chart 1

The top four restaurants, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, have all maintained their rankings since February 2020, but the introduction of several new chicken sandwich menu items has the potential to shake up the market in 2021.

The chicken sandwich fast food space is already crowded and growing, but there seems to be an appetite among consumers. Online spending on chicken sandwiches grew 420% between January 2019 and December 2020, according to Edison Trends.

Insider has reported that several chains gearing up to introduce competitors to Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, both of which sell crispy chicken sandwiches with pickles. In January, KFC introduced a crispy chicken sandwich at nine locations, available across the country by the end of February, and Jimmy John’s dropped its own version of the chicken sandwich in a Super Bowl ad. Burger King announced a new chicken sandwich coming later this year, and McDonald’s is bringing its own entry this month. Shake Shack is launching a limited-edition chicken sandwich collab in Houston, and even Taco Bell announced a chicken sandwich taco coming later this year.

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Popeyes is launching a a new fish sandwich nationwide

popeyes fish
  • Popeyes is releasing a flounder sandwich on February 11.
  • The chain is still feeling the success of the chicken sandwich over rivals.
  • The fish sandwich release right before Lent might be a bid for Catholic customers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Popeyes is releasing a new sandwich, but this time it isn’t chicken. The chain is launching the Cajun Flounder Sandwich beginning on Thursday, February 11 across the US.

The sandwich consists of flaky Pacific flounder with Cajun seasoning on a toasted brioche bun with tartar sauce and the fan-favorite pickles from Popeyes’ chicken sandwich. It will retail for $4.49.

As an added perk, the restaurant is offering “sandwich insurance” to customers who try the new offering. For an extra 15 cents on launch day, customers ordering through the Popeyes app can purchase insurance guaranteeing that the chain will replace the fish sandwich with chicken if you don’t like it.

Read more: Inside McDonald’s reckoning on race amid billion-dollar lawsuits and unprecedented new efforts

Popeyes joins many other fast-food chains in offering a fish sandwich, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Arby’s. Rival Chick-fil-A doesn’t currently have a fish sandwich on the menu, but it sold one in 2019 during Lent when chains often compete to win Catholic customers with non-meat options. Popeyes announcement comes only a week before the start of Lent, so the chain might be making a similar move.

Popeyes famously released a chicken sandwich in 2019 that became the fast food item of the year, leading to record sales and chicken sandwich wars between major face food brands. The competition is still ongoing, after KFC just released a new chicken sandwich and McDonald’s plans to roll out three new chicken sandwiches in late February, and Burger King was spotted testing out a chicken sandwich in October. Wendy’s also released a new “classic chicken sandwich” in October, replacing the older “homestyle chicken sandwich.”

The success of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich has likely kept sales strong as the pandemic led to decreasing sales across the industry. In the third quarter of 2020, Popeyes owner Restaurant Brands International reported sales were up 17.4%, even as sales declines at sibling brands Tim Hortons and Burger King.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Jack in the Box just announced 2 new chicken sandwiches as last year’s biggest fast-food battle heats up again

Jack in the Box's cluck sandwiches
Jack in the Box’s cluck sandwiches.

  • Fast-food chain Jack in the Box is expanding its chicken menu with two new chicken sandwiches, the Cluck Sandwich and the Cluck Deluxe Sandwich.
  • The new rollout falls on the heels of last year’s heated chicken sandwich battle between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A but comes before McDonald’s new chicken sandwich that will be unveiled early 2021.
  • Jack in the Box’s new sandwiches have ingredients like a mystery sauce, guacamole, and pickles.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fast-food chain Jack in the Box is expanding its chicken menu with two new chicken sandwiches, the Cluck Sandwich and the Cluck Deluxe Sandwich.

The fast-food chain already has several chicken sandwiches in its lineup, but the new Cluck Sandwich rollout comes on the heels of the infamous chicken sandwich war last year between newcomer Popeyes and longtime standard Chick-fil-A.

Read more: One chart shows the explosive impact of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich on the fast-food chain’s sales

Other fast-food brands have since joined in on the chicken sandwich dispute, including Wendy’s and Church’s Chicken. McDonald’s is also set to join the contentious battle early next year when the fast-food giant unveils its new fried chicken sandwich.

Jack in the Box’s new chicken sandwich lineup consists of the Cluck Sandwich and the Cluck Deluxe Sandwich.

Jack in the Box's cluck sandwiches
Jack in the Box’s cluck sandwiches.

The Cluck Sandwich comes with a crispy chicken fillet, pickles, and a mystery sauce, all held together with a brioche bun.

Jack in the Box's Cluck Combo
Jack in the Box’s cluck combo.

The deluxe version has the same bun and chicken combination, with the added bonus of mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, hickory smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese. According to Jack in the Box, these extra ingredients are a “classic hit with consumers.”

Jack in the Box's cluck deluxe sandwich combo
Jack in the Box’s cluck deluxe sandwich combo.

Jack in the Box has also partnered with singer and actress Becky G for a social media #JacksNewChickenDance campaign to help launch the new chicken sandwich lineup.

Becky G jack in the box
Becky G and Jack in the Box.

The Cluck Sandwich is $4.99, while the Cluck Deluxe is $6.99. Both can be upgraded to the combo version for an additional $1.

Jack in the Box's cluck sandwich
Jack in the Box’s cluck sandwich.

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