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  • Writer's pictureKarl Oppenheimer

Popeyes Surpasses KFC to Claim Second Place in Chicken Chain Rankings

Popeyes Surpasses KFC to Secure Second Place in U.S. Chicken Chain Rankings, with Chick-fil-A Maintaining the Top Spot

In a significant development, Popeyes has successfully climbed to the second spot in the highly competitive U.S. chicken chain market, displacing KFC from its long-held position. This milestone comes approximately a decade after Chick-fil-A had initially dethroned KFC to become the leading chicken chain in the country.

The battle for consumers' palates and spending in the chicken chain industry has intensified in recent years. Chick-fil-A, which was once a regional player, has evolved into a nationwide giant, trailing only behind industry titans McDonald's and Starbucks in terms of annual sales. Notably, Popeyes, under the umbrella of Restaurant Brands International, entered the fray by launching a game-changing chicken sandwich in 2019. This sandwich swiftly became a menu sensation and ignited what is now famously known as the "chicken sandwich wars." In response, major burger chains like McDonald's and Wendy's jumped on the trend, introducing their versions of chicken sandwiches, ultimately leading to shortages of poultry products.

In the midst of this fierce competition, KFC, part of Yum Brands, has faced setbacks. According to research by Barclays, KFC's market share in the U.S. dwindled from 16.1% to 11.3% over the past year. Popeyes, too, experienced a reduction in market share but retained enough to overtake its rival, with its U.S. market share shrinking from 15% to 11.9%, according to Barclays.

The primary factor behind this shift is Chick-fil-A's remarkable growth, expanding its market share from 38.3% to 45.5%. Despite its Sunday closures, Chick-fil-A's customer service, concise menu, and efficient drive-thru operations have solidified its dominance in the industry.

KFC, on the other hand, struggled to keep pace with the competition. It took more than a year for KFC to respond to Popeyes' chicken sandwich launch. Additionally, KFC lost its long-serving U.S. leader, Kevin Hochman, to Brinker International last year, where he now serves as CEO.

In contrast, Popeyes leveraged the popularity of its chicken sandwich to introduce customers to other menu offerings and drive the opening of new restaurants. More recently, the Sweet 'N Spicy Wings launch became one of the chain's most successful menu debuts since the chicken sandwich.

Patrick Doyle, Chair of Restaurant Brands International, responded to the news by exclaiming, "Game on, Chick-fil-A," during a mid-September address at Scotiabank's Back to School Conference.

Popeyes President Sami Siddiqui expressed optimism about the brand's future, stating that they consider this milestone as an indication of heading in the right direction, with plans for further growth in their quest to become the most beloved and frequented chicken chain in the United States.

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