That changed in August when Popeyes tweeted that it was selling a $3.99 sandwich—fried chicken topped with pickles and either mayonnaise or spicy Cajun sauce on a brioche bun—at its 2,400 U.S. locations. The news went viral after a Twitter spat: Following Popeyes’ announcement, Chick-fil-A Inc. made a passive-aggressive claim that its sandwich was the “original.” Popeyes replied, “y’all good?” popeyes chicken sandwich
Popeyes had prepared for franchises to sell about 60 sandwiches a day; in many cases, it was closer to 1,000. Customers waited in line for hours. Some listed sandwiches on EBay with asking prices up to $7,000. When Popeyes ran out, locations offered a BYOB sandwich—an order of fried chicken for people who brought their own buns. In November, Popeyes restocked the sandwich, and at one location the frenzy turned deadly: A man was stabbed and killed outside a Maryland restaurant by another customer who accused him of cutting in line. The company still hasn’t nailed down its supply chain—some Popeyes ran out of the sandwich a second time—but its viral sensation has helped it post its best numbers in more than two decades.
Popeyes vs. Chick-fil-A: Real experts pick the best sandwich
The first-ever fried chicken sandwich from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was so popular when it hit restaurants Aug. 12 that hungry people waited hours in line to get one. Fifteen days later, Popeyes sold out.
The Popeyes drought ended last month when the world’s most famous chicken sandwich returned. And that marked the start of the chicken sandwich challenge.
People all over began pitting the Popeyes sandwich against the so-called original from its competitor, Chick-fil-A. They’d buy a sandwich from each and do a blind taste-test to see which one was the best. Many posted their challenges on YouTube.
Both of these sandwiches are fried breaded chicken breasts. Both have two pickle slices. Both are on buttery, toasty buns. They’re similar in price: Popeyes is $3.99; Chick-fil-A is $4.29. So how could one be so much better than the other?
We enlisted the help of some real-life chefs at Syracuse University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies to find out which chain restaurant made the best fried chicken sandwich. Our panel consisted of two chefs who now teach future chefs and three of their students. Jacob Pucci, syracuse.com’s food writer, and I also joined the judges.
We brought 10 sandwiches from Popeyes and 10 from Chick-fil-A to the test kitchens at SU’s Falk College. Each judge got one of each on a numbered plate. We sampled them and offered opinions before rendering a verdict.
That verdict was unanimous: Popeyes wins.
Here are some thoughts from the judges:
Chef Mary, Associate Teaching Professor: The chicken in No. 1 (Popeyes) just tastes better. I also like the brioche bun. It makes it seem more special.
Chef Chris, Culinary Specialist: No. 1 (Popeyes) tastes like something I’d make at home. It’s got a better flavor all around.
Kelsie, senior majoring in nutrition: I liked No. 1 (Popeyes) because it is more filling. You’re going to get your money’s worth out of this sandwich. The breading gives it a good crunch.
Cara, graduate student in food studies: The quality of the chicken is much better in No. 1 (Popeyes). It’s very obvious. It’s bigger, tastier, and I like the touch of mayo.
Chanel, graduate student in food studies: No. 1 (Popeyes) tastes more like real chicken than No. 2. That one tasted more processed.
Jacob, food writer: The Chick-fil-A is a basic, classic chicken sandwich with pickles and bun. Very basic. The Popeyes chicken is much thicker, with a craggly breaded crust that really sets it apart. Chick-Fil-A might win the sauce game—you can’t top the classic Chick-Fil-A sauce—but when it comes to chicken, Popeyes wins.
Charlie, journalist: No. 2 (Chick-fil-A) looks pitiful. I think they took a mallet to the breast and pounded it until it was paper thin. The other one is huge. It has girth. It also has much more flavor. I’m puzzled at how this so-called challenge became a ‘thing.’ These two are worlds apart. Popeyes is clearly better, and it’s pretty cheap.
Popeyes was founded in Arabi, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish. It first opened its doors on June 12, 1972, as “Chicken on the Run”. Owner Al Copeland wanted to compete with Kentucky Fried Chicken, but his restaurant failed after several months. Copeland reopened the restaurant four days later as Popeyes Mighty Good Chicken. By 1975, the company had been renamed as Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken. Copeland started franchising his restaurant in 1976, beginning in Louisiana. The chain expanded to Canada in 1984, and opened its 500th restaurant in 1985. B.P. Newman of Laredo, Texas, acquired several franchises in Texas and surrounding states. Two hundred additional locations were added during a period of slower expansion.
By 1990, Copeland Enterprises was in default on $391 million in debts, and in April 1991, the company filed for bankruptcy protection. In October 1992, the court approved a plan by a group of Copeland’s creditors that resulted in the creation of America’s Favorite Chicken Company, Inc. (AFC) to serve as the new parent company for Popeyes and Church’s, another fast food chain specializing in chicken. AFC went public in 2001 with initial public offering (IPO) of $142,818,479. On December 29, 2004, AFC sold Church’s to Arcapita (formerly Crescent Capital Investments) retaining Popeyes.
On June 17, 2014, Popeyes announced it had re-acquired full control of its seasonings, recipes, and other proprietary food preparation techniques from Diversified Foods & Seasonings, which remained under the control of Al Copeland and his estate after the creditor sale of Popeyes to AFC. Popeyes had continued to license the seasonings, recipes, and techniques from DF&S for a yearly ‘spice royalty’, before buying them outright for $43 million. DFS remains the main supplier for Popeyes until at least 2029.
Popeyes Menu with prices.
Click on the link in the article for the updated Popeyes menu with prices, including the famous Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.