A fresh management team led by Cheryl Bachelder, a 1-time president of rival KFC, had been charged to steady the 1,900-unit company, but a litany of external and internal pressures complicated the work.
Same-store sales, average unit volume (AUV), and transaction counts had suffered many years of declines, and the ones downward trends placed the business at odds using its franchisees, several of whom considered the Atlanta-based company mismanaged and self-serving. As if that wasn’t enough, the excellent Recession struck, spurring a precipitous drop in consumer confidence that further challenged gains.
Then, in March 2008, Popeyes founder Al Copeland, who had built the fried chicken-peddling chain from a single unit in a global enterprise of some 800 units, died at age 64. Though Copeland had not directed the brand for longer than 20 years, his death seemed a symbolic public blow to your brand clamoring once and for all news-a bit of good news.
“The brand hadn’t been managed well,” says Lynch, one among Bachelder’s early management hires as well as the company’s chief brand officer, “and we required to get back in line.”
And that’s what exactly Popeye’s Menu did. Within the last eight years, the chain has turned into a reinvigorated, lively force in the quick-service game, shifting its results, public perception, along with its future prospects.
In 2015, Popeyes added nearly $700 million in systemwide sales to the year-leapfrogging Papa John’s to penetrate the top 20 from the QSR 50-and captured same-store sales gains of 5.7 percent at its domestic units, the seventh consecutive year of positive comp sales. The enterprise also reached two new development milestones: opening a record 219 restaurants in 2016-125 of those within the Usa-and crossing 2,500 total units, an army of restaurants scattered across the United states and over two dozen other nations around the globe.
In 1972, Copeland opened Chicken around the Run in Arabi, Louisiana, a fresh Orleans suburb on the eastern fringe of the Mississippi River. Within months of opening, lackluster sales prompted Copeland-a 1-time local doughnut magnate unafraid of bold ideas-to modify course. He altered his eatery’s menu from traditional Southern-fried chicken to spicy, New Orleans-style chicken as well as installed the Popeyes moniker, a nod to Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, the detective character within the French Connection portrayed by Gene Hackman.
From the mid-1980s, Popeyes was really a growing phenomenon. The chain boasted a lot more than 500 units, including restaurants away from U.S., and had end up being the third-largest quick-service chicken chain.
But Copeland’s ambitious appetite proved too mighty. In 1991, his company was forced into bankruptcy after his 1989 buying of rival Church’s Fried Chicken soured. The organization reorganized as AFC (America’s Favorite Chicken) Enterprises shortly thereafter.
Through the entire 1990s and into the twenty-first century, Popeyes struggled to discover solid footing. It acquired and then sold brands like Seattle’s Best Coffee and Cinnabon. It lacked direction and purpose amid a revolving door of CEOs, in addition to persistent sales, profit, and store-traffic declines. Franchisees became increasingly frustrated.
When Bachelder was appointed CEO in 2007, the corporation was drowning in the surging wave of missteps.
“It was the land of silos,” says Amy Alarcon, Popeyes’ v . p . of culinary innovation, who joined the business in 2007. “Franchisees investigated us with plenty of suspicion, and we had 99devzpky break through that noise and unite.”
Bachelder and her leadership team responded by introducing a Strategic Roadmap designed to fuel results, unify the manufacturer, re-establish trust with franchisees, and propel the brand’s floundering marketplace standing.
There seemed to be the launch of new products, including snack items and lighter options to the core bone-in chicken offering; a shop remodeling project; new menuboards; plus a new advertising agency. The multi-million-dollar efforts were created to drive traffic and stop consistent same-store sales declines.
“We weren’t a national advertiser in 2008, and were only in about 30 percent from the U.S.,” Lynch says, calling the company’s advertising spend “completely inefficient.”
Right after, Annie, a fictional character played by actress Deidrie Henry, took over as the brand’s new spokeswoman, a job designed to share blunt discuss Popeyes’ authentic and tasty food. There seemed to be another revised name, as Popeyes dropped its “Chicken & Biscuits” tag in support of “Louisiana Kitchen,” an attempt to celebrate the brand’s heritage of Louisiana-inspired home cooking.
“We planned to tell the brand’s story and present Popeyes brand relevance … and this started with bringing the manufacturer returning to its Louisiana roots and which makes it authentic. We believed we couldn’t tell our brand story without a new brand identity,” says Lynch, who developed brand strategy and innovation plans for concepts like Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings before his arrival at Popeyes in 2008.
Most importantly, however, leadership necessary to restore the trust of its franchisees, a romantic relationship that had withered and weakened amid consistent instability.
“Franchisees had every reason being unhappy, and that we necessary to demonstrate we might have the brand back on track,” Lynch says.
Indeed, Popeyes’ leadership was dedicated to regaining its franchisees’ trust. Lynch recalls long and robust discussions among leadership regarding the brand’s core customer. Was it the buyer, investors, or franchisees? “We decided it was actually our franchisees, so we required to know how our franchisees were making profits and the way we could help them make more,” he says. “If they were happy, then the rest would take care of itself.”
Everything became regarding the brand name and driving its success with franchisees surface of mind, Lynch says. There were operational introductions similar to a guest satisfaction monitor, increased food-safety assessments, plus a store-level scorecard that measured key metrics like sales, profits, employee turnover, and guest experience. “We looked to improve understand store-level profitability, cost benefits, and traffic drivers,” he says.
On the guest experience side, as an illustration, store managers received customer happiness reports along with action wants to rectify issues. When the store received the lowest score for, say, hot food, then the system would mention specific interventions including checking certain components of kitchen equipment or even more closely monitoring hold times to operate improvement.
Popeyes’ leadership also inspired its culinary team to be creative and innovative, as long as new creations featured ingredients or cooking techniques authentic to Louisiana. The company’s culinary brain trust responded with 6 to 8 limited-time offerings each and every year, including popular options like Wicked Chicken and Rip’n Chick’n, which captured imaginations and customers.
“We enjoyed a laser-sharp concentrate on translating the personality of Louisiana into our food to ensure our products could tell the history of our brand,” Alarcon says, adding that Popeyes’ culinary resolve “has go to define us, separate us, and lift us far from our competitive set.”
Keen to inject Louisiana’s bold, flavorful, and artistic personality into its food-weaving within the French, German, African, Italian, and British influences that pepper the region’s robust culinary scene-Popeyes’ culinary team hit other home runs with LTOs like Chicken Waffle Tenders-a transportable and affordable product-and Red Stick Chicken, by which chicken strips were marinated in Tabasco sauce and cayenne prior to being battered and deep-fried.
The culinary creativity further spurred the chain’s resurgence, reinforcing Popeyes’ Louisiana brand heritage and providing the quick serve a robust reason for differentiation.
Same-store sales and profitability began ticking upward during 2009 as the brand’s marketplace positioning became more clear and distinctive. Franchisees, once a largely disgruntled group, hopped on the bandwagon-“The alignment using our franchisees is much more powerful than anyone is ever going to know,” Lynch says-there was collective movement around a simply stated yet ambitious brand purpose: “Food that ignites our desire to serve.”
“We all rallied behind those words and centered on our roadmap,” Lynch says.
In 2014, Forbes called Popeyes the “KFC Killer” and credited the chain for “crushing rivals with a mixture of upscale marketing and unapologetically greasy comfort food that customers-and investors-can’t resist.”
The sentiment continues to ring true. In 2008, Popeyes’ AUV sat at $1 million. Today, it’s more than $1.4 million. In 2008, Popeyes’ stock price sat only $3.50 a share. Today, the ticker for Popeyes hovers near $60.
“It’s pretty remarkable how [Bachelder] and her team have turned things around given how disjointed things were eight to nine yrs ago,” says analyst Alton Stump of Cleveland-based Longbow Research. “You have got a system today that’s closely aligned, and everybody is on a single page to produce the very best returns they possibly can.”
The core parts of Popeyes’ recent renaissance-the focus on its Louisiana heritage, new product proliferation, and franchisee relations-remain very found in 2016 as Popeyes aims to go on its brand-building efforts and record-breaking results.
“It’s an enduring strategy,” Lynch says. “We’re working to generate a legacy of systems, protocols, policies, and values that live beyond us.”
Earlier in 2016, the organization identified a selection of bold, long term goals to get achieved within the next seven to 10 years, including driving Usa restaurant AUVs from approximately $1.4 million to $2 million, increasing franchisee profitability from $340,000 to $500,000 per restaurant, and growing Popeyes’ global unit count from 2,500 to 4,000 restaurants.
To achieve these ambitious objectives, Popeyes’ new Strategic Roadmap focuses much more so on its Louisiana heritage, which leaders carry on and see as Popeyes’ key brand differentiator. Furthermore, it concentrates on routine operational excellence at the restaurant level as a technique to boost traffic counts.
Popeyes can also be doubling upon its people, which leadership sees as essential to driving profitability. Earlier this summer, the chain presented a member of staff engagement system by which about 60,000 crew members answered questions regarding their engagement with the brand name and their individual restaurants. The business is now in early stages of action planning against that data, thoughtfully and earnestly seeking concrete ways to increase employee engagement.
“This is distinct and new territory for us,” Lynch says in the employee engagement push, “but crucial for your continued success.”
The company’s three strategic pillars-Louisiana, operational excellence, and its particular people-will soon be enabled by ONE Technology, an initiative to build a frequent technology platform for the Popeyes system.
“All of such programs need to be supported and facilitated by technology, both guest and employee facing, that aim to make lives better,” Lynch says.
Stump says the technology piece is essential for Popeyes, which really has room to increase for both unit count-where it trails chicken category leader KFC by some 1,700 units-and AUV, where Chick-fil-A more than doubles Popeyes’ output.
“Popeyes’ collection of data from franchisees over the years, something the company wasn’t doing before [Bachelder’s] arrival, has helped the franchisees generate better returns and pick better sites, and another Technology is the next step here,” Stump says. “Popeyes must get right down to one POS system, not the 40 or so they may have now.”
Bachelder, meanwhile, continue to lead the charge as CEO after inking a new multi-year employment agreement with Popeyes’ board of directors earlier this coming year.
“One of Cheryl’s greatest talents is the fact that she knows the right questions you should ask with the right time,” Lynch says of his longtime colleague. “Best of all the, she creates an environment in which these questions are addressed creatively and constructively.”
Stability on the top, along with a definite plan for the future, provides http://allfoodmenuprices.com/popeyes-menu-prices/ leadership lots of confidence the momentum in the last eight years will continue.
“We be aware of it doesn’t have any easier, that the mountain keeps getting steeper and steeper,” Lynch says, “but we’ve had our turnaround and don’t need to do another. Everyone-our corporate staff, our franchisees, our crew, our customers, and [Wall Street]-understands everything we were here to do, and that’s to keep our growth trajectory.”