Randy Estrada holds up his chicken sandwiches at a Popeye’s in Kyle, Texas, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. The much-hyped chicken sandwich will go on sale Canada-wide on Monday, after trial launches in Edmonton and southern Ontario earlier this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eric Gay

Popeyes to roll out viral chicken sandwich Canada-wide amid physical distancing

Popeyes has launched an ambitious expansion in the Canadian market in the last five years.

Popeyes’ much-hyped chicken sandwich will go on sale Canada-wide on Monday, after trial launches in Edmonton and southern Ontario earlier this year.

The sandwich made headlines for rapidly selling out after it was released in the U.S. last year. But unlike last year’s U.S. frenzy, the Canadian launch requires crowd control as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps restaurant capacities limited.

Popeyes Canada general manager Rob Manuel said franchisees will add physical distancing stickers both inside and outside restaurants to better direct customers while complying with pandemic-related public health measures. Manuel said the sandwich will also be available through food delivery apps at its Sept. 14 launch.

Although hiring is left to franchise owners, Manuel said shop owners are being encouraged to hire full-time staffers if needed, to deal with increased demand.

Popeyes has launched an ambitious expansion in the Canadian market in the last five years. Of its 230 locations, 100 were added in the past four years.

Popeyes, which is owned by Tim Hortons-parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc., is one of several restaurants trying to woo Canadian consumers with new fried chicken offerings. Chick-fil-A drew crowds when it opened a Toronto location last year and KFC launched its own Famous Chicken Sandwich on Sept. 7, touting a version with Canadian chicken available only in Canada.

Now restaurants, like many businesses, are trying to bring in customers as the COVID-19 pandemic has pressured business. RBI said in August that last quarter’s sales were down 31 per cent year over year, with fewer office workers grabbing morning coffees at Tim Hortons. The upside: Popeyes drive-thru sales across all regions were up 100 per cent during the second quarter, outperforming sister-brands Burger King or Tim Hortons.

Despite RBI’s ties to Canada, Manuel said Popeyes is taking its cues from the U.S. market, more so than the Tim Hortons audience, when it comes to the Canadian sandwich launch.

The sandwich – a battered, breaded white meat chicken breast fillet, pickles, plain or spicy mayonnaise, and brioche bun – was met with critical acclaim in the U.S., with Time magazine writing it was “worth the hype,” even if it was in-line with similar offerings from other fast-food chains.

Manuel said trials – one in Edmonton, one in southern Ontario, and a pre-release to 144 lottery winners this weekend – have given the chain a good idea of what level of demand they can expect. On a big day, a Popeye’s in Edmonton saw 1,600 sandwich orders, 10-times the level for the old sandwich recipe, Manuel said.

“The Canadian market, for us, is one of our faster growing markets already. We think the chicken sandwich will continue that momentum,” Manuel said.

READ MORE: Want a latte? Bring a mask: Starbucks to make face coverings mandatory in Canada

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

fast food

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local author Eleanor Bertin thrilled to mark latest novel release

Bertin joins other authors J.L. Cole and Crystal Stewart for a book signing at Stettler’s Sweet Home on Main on Oct. 3rd

Despite pandemic challenges, the Castor Golf Course has some reasons to celebrate their 2020 season

Projects in 2020 include renovations to the club house kitchen and repairs to the roof from last year’s hailstorm

MP Damien Kurek said the recent Throne Speech lacked direction, leadership and clarity

‘It was vague, it was expensive and it’s very intrusive into provincial jurisdiction.’

Central zone down to 16 active COVID-19 cases

Alberta Health Services’ central zone is down to 16

No safe mask option for bearded members, RCMP says, but force is exploring solutions

RCMP says respirator not mandatory in all front-line situations, but sometimes needed to reduce risk

‘Worst of the worse cases:’ Alberta horse owners on alert for outbreak of fever

An outbreak of the Potomac horse fever has been declared in Alberta

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $50 million Lotto Max jackpot

Jackpot for the next draw will grow to approximately $55 million

Wilkinson aims to be B.C. premier after cabinet role, working as doctor and lawyer

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as the Liberal party leader

First Nations police services look to throne speech pledge for higher, stable funding

‘I won’t be happy until I hear two words: royal assent’

Most Read