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

Tour de Rock pedals through the Cowichan Valley

Cops for Cancer fundraiser visits local schools

Kerry Park Islanders open regular season this weekend

Intersquad game boosted profile for some players

Crash snarls traffic in Duncan Tuesday evening

The crash appeared to involve at least three vehicles

Fire crews put out blaze in Cowichan Secondary outbuilding

Three halls respond to fire in storage structure

Who’s running in Cowichan?

A list of Cowichan candidates for the upcoming provincial election

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read