The chicken has finally crossed the road.
Following a 2-month hiatus, the instantly-famous chicken sandwich has returned to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen stores nationwide. After selling out in late August, the sandwich’s return has created the same fanfare it did two months prior.
“It’s guaranteed by like 8:30, 9 [p.m.], that just for that day, we’re going to run out of thawed chicken,” said Bassam Abulaban, owner of the Morgantown Popeyes franchise. “And we’re still open an hour later, weekends two hours later.”
When the sandwich was first released in August, it sold out in mere weeks. There were multiple-hour wait lines throughout the country, in which physical fights even broke out among customers, all sparked from a seemingly-friendly Twitter feud between between Popeyes and rival Chick-fil-A.
The feud greatly impacted Popeyes’ revenue and reputation as the two companies argued over whose chicken sandwich was supreme, and, ultimately, it was beneficial for Popeyes, Abulaban said.
“We’ve increased our business at least 35 to 40% [since introducing the sandwich],” Abulaban said.
The Morgantown location is making more than 1,000 sandwiches per day to keep up with the demand. Of the sandwiches made, 96% are sold on average.
Due to the demand, the Morgantown Popeyes has had wait lines of more than an hour both in August when initially released and this past weekend, when the sandwich returned. This has occurred despite the additional workers the company has been forced to schedule.
Before the sandwich was released, Abulaban usually scheduled five people to work at once, but with the sandwich, he has been forced to increase his staff to seven or eight people at any given time.
Not only are wait times increasing at Popeyes stores throughout the country, but altercations have occurred, too.
“We don’t have customers that are causing fights — physical fights at least — verbal we definitely get, but I understand because [you have] to wait, but chicken has to cook,” Abulaban said. “Fortunately, for us being in Morgantown, I think people here are a little more patient than they are in bigger cities, but we definitely had some problems with it.
“At the end of the day it’s a good problem because you want that type of rush and steadiness, but you can only cook and make so much at a time.”
To prepare and accommodate the mass rush associated with the return of the sandwich, the Morgantown Popeyes began making and selling the sandwich once again on Friday, Nov. 1., two days before the return nationwide on Sunday.
“Friday, we kind of had a soft-opening,” Abulaban said. “We just started cooking them and people got the word out, so Friday we were busy. Saturday we were pretty busy. Sunday was just nuts — you would’ve thought it was a club there. You couldn’t really move.”
Now, with the success the store has seen in recent months, Abulaban is exploring expansion into different markets within West Virginia. He wishes to open three more stores, with a possibility of one opening in Morgantown’s University Town Centre.
“We have three approved locations right now, and if we can keep at least 75% of the sandwich sales that we have, we will basically jump right on those other stores,” Abulaban said.