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The Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019

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Popeye's Using Success of New Sandwich to Increase Mobile Reach

The great sandwich war of the summer of 2019 appears to be over for now. But now Popeye's Chicken is using the insane popularity of its recently launched chicken sandwich to push its mobile app on customers that are eager to sink their teeth into this popular fast food item.

The sandwich launched on August 12 at various locations nationwide and immediately became a viral craze. Customers lined up for hours to purchase the sandwich, consisting of a fried chicken filet complemented with sour pickles and mayo all piled high on a brioche bun. It did not take long for comparisons to form between the new Popeye's sandwich and the extremely popular similar item offered at Chick-fil-A.

Connoisseurs of both sandwiches took to Twitter to begin debating the merits of each item. The growing Twitter conversations led to many media outlets weighing in on the sandwich. Reputable publications such as The New Yorker and the LA Times even published their thoughts on the sandwich. This extensive media coverage then drew the ire of animal rights activist groups who argued that cheap and mass-produced fast food items are not in the interest of animals or human health.

This debate only added to the viral hype of the Popeye's version, causing people to flock to the establishment to try it out for themselves. As the 20th-largest fast food chain in the country, Popeye's struggled with the demand for the sandwiches, appearing to be caught off guard by the craze that it created.

Various reports became circulating around the internet, detailing long lines and overworked Popeye's employees who could not keep up with the demand. One employee estimated that he made over 600 sandwiches over the period of 11 hours. One of the most popular memes showed an employee looking particularly exhausted while on a break. Not surprisingly, employee rights groups began to weigh in on the appearance that the Popeye's workers were being overworked.

Despite the backlash, the sandwich continued to draw crowds. On August 27, Popeye's announced that they were officially sold out of the sandwich temporarily. The popular item is expected to be back soon, although the company has not released the specifics of the anticipated return date. Rather than announce a specific date, Popeye's is directing fans to their mobile app for more information when it becomes available. The company is ensuring the mobile app users that they will be the first to know when the sandwich returns to its restaurants. The intention is to send push notifications out through the Android and iOS apps.

Critics of the move say that the hype was used to draw users to the mobile app. Company leaders will not say if halting the sales of the sandwich was intended to bring Popeye's into the forefront of mobile communication by encouraging customers to download the app. The restaurant chain has been slow in its technical efforts, not jumping on the opportunity to make features such as delivery or mobile ordering available to customers as quickly as its competitors did. Popeye's also just recently begin accepting Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay at its restaurants.

Whether or not the pull-back on the sandwich will indeed increase the company's mobile presence in a significant way is yet to be seen. But nobody can fault Popeye's for leveraging the power of this sandwich craze to look at increasing its mobile footprint.
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