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How Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Uses Viral Marketing to Create Explosive Growth

The #4 company on our Franchise 500 list wants to be one of the fastest-growing brands in the U.S.

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This story appears in the January 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

"I am not a very efficient laborer," says Sami Siddiqui, president, Americas, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. After accepting his new role in September, Siddiqui spent a day cooking in one of the 's kitchens — and he dropped more chicken on the floor than he cares to admit. But he did gain a deeper understanding as to why people are so obsessed with Popeyes.

Courtesy of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

"This is not normal ," he says. "It's fresh chicken, battered and breaded and marinated by hand. This is how you make food in your mom or dad's kitchen."

Related: 5 Ways a Franchise Can Grow Fast

It's been an incredible year for Popeyes. In late 2019, sales and store traffic skyrocketed after the franchise added an all-new, $3.99 chicken sandwich to the menu. Thanks to some savvy marketing and a viral Twitter feud with rival Chick-fil-A, Popeyes turned the launch into a cultural flash point. "The chicken sandwich fundamentally changed our ," Siddiqui says. "It really expanded our customer base. We now have higher-income groups and people from different geographic locations coming in just to try the sandwich."

That explosion threatened to slow down when the pandemic hit, but Popeyes acted fast and doubled down on its delivery system and digital platform. The helped boost same-store sales by another 20 percent and vaulted the company toward the top of our list — up from #57, when the brand last participated, in 2011. Now Siddiqui and his team are hoping to keep that momentum going by tapping proven franchisees to expand the brand's footprint.

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"We have about 2,500 stores across the U.S., but our competitors have a lot more," Siddiqui says. "We have fantastic unit economics, great paybacks for our franchisees, and the hottest brand in QSR right now. We should be one of the fastest-growing brands in the U.S." If the recent success continues, it will be.

To see our complete Franchise 500 rankings, please click here, or view more stories here.

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