With all the variables of what’s trending in our culture, it’s not too often that a chicken sandwich takes over the internet. But with Popeye’s new offering, the company has received a fanatical following that has been more than they ever could have hoped for. Locations across the country were experiencing long lines causing chaos and mayhem, and people waiting for hours while others were clamoring just to even find a location that was still serving this tasty treat, it’s not an overstatement that this is far and away the food craze of 2019. The sheer demand has reached a level of mass desire by the public at large that the company itself couldn’t keep up with it, not even close. In fact, the company announced that it had run out of its allotment of chicken sandwiches over a month ahead of schedule. So what caused this nationwide sensation and was the sandwich truly worth the wait?
One of our latest podcasts delves even more into the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich experience.
One of the many ways the fast food industry has tried to court new customers is the ever-increasing use of social media. Numerous outlets have gone to the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook to share their newest food items, hottest dishes, and current specials showcasing with their copious amount of food pics why people need to frequent their locations. Some have even taken to a higher form of social media manipulation (see: Wendy’s) with snarky tones, flashy images, and pointed commentary to get their chain noticed. But with Chick-Fil-A now thought of in many areas of the country as a sacred part of American heritage, it took an outside-the-box public relations campaign to not only get Popeye’s chicken sandwich off and running, but into the history books as one of the most successful food launch campaigns in the modern era.
We decided to acknowledge Sweet Dixie Kitchen’s admiration and invited them to pre-release our biggest product launch in 30 years. The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.
Available at Sweet Dixie Kitchen August 8th and 9th only. Available at Popeyes restaurants nationwide 8/12. pic.twitter.com/jGdZPmd4Go
— Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken) August 8, 2019
In October of 2017, Sweet Dixie Chicken, a restaurant located in Long Beach, California was accused by customers (and soon after in op-ed’s by websites Longbeachize and Foodbeast) of selling Popeye’s chicken as their own, and at a higher price for some of their menu items. Once confronted with the accusations by customers, not only did owner Kim Sanchez refuse to deny the allegations, but brazenly embraced them repeatedly when asked which caused the location during this time (known as #Popeyesgate on social media) to receive threats and numerous one and two-star reviews on the Yelp connection. Flash forward two years later and not only was Popeye’s not angry at Sanchez and Sweet Dixie Chicken for the chicanery, but they used the restaurant as the initial launch location to introduce their brand new chicken sandwich to the public.
Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second best chicken sandwich. pic.twitter.com/4v9RJFgy0T
— WENDY’S SPICY NUGGETS ARE BACK!!! (@Wendys) August 19, 2019
They used the restaurant to kick off the campaign which only served to build into the hype of what Popeye’s themselves called their “biggest product launch in 30 years” what would soon become a national phenomenon. Once the sandwich itself was released to locations all over the United States, word soon began to spread through social media outlets about just how good it is. Lines began to form, crowds began to assemble and fast-food competitors, sensing the growing trend tried to fight off the challenge by reminding the public about its own offerings. Even the every snarky Wendy’s tried valiantly to try to have a place in this conversation but alas, nothing was going to stop this public relations steamroller from demolishing every food enemy in its path. That is until the company (for now) could no longer be able to supply the ever-growing demand.
— WINNER RECORDS™️ (@Sushiboyshaad) August 20, 2019
Ever the curious type, I myself went out on a quest to find this ever-elusive delicacy for I had to see if indeed this was the Holy Grail of chicken sandwiches. While the eBay listings that constantly popped up would have been slightly easier (but much more costly as prices fluctuate from the hundreds to thousands of dollars per sandwich), I decided to push forward and stop by a local outlet here in Las Vegas. My order of one chicken sandwich (spicy version instead of regular) took place on August 25th at 11:55 am and even though the drive-thru line wrapped around the building, and the crowds gathered inside bordered on its maximum occupancy, I thought waiting for a half-hour or so just to get a taste of what’s hot in pop culture wouldn’t be so bad. The layers of self-doubt about why I was remaining there started to creep in at the 45-minute mark, unbeknownst to me that around the same time a location about twenty minutes away was being shut down due to the overload of customer demand, so in hindsight, I guess I had it good.
Ninety, that’s right ninety minutes later I finally got my order and as I was leaving found out how fortunate I was as the manager and employees, looking both physically and emotionally drained from having two deal with this onslaught for over two weeks, notified customers waiting they had run out of butter to spread on the sandwich buns. Wanting to leave the chaos (which I can only liken to a Black Friday or a Costco in China opening), I quickly sprinted into my vehicle to decide for myself if this was truly the inspirational food item so many of us have been searching for. The chicken itself was a big hunk of meat with flavorful coating, dressed in a tasty spicy sauce with a Brioche bun that held the taste together quite nicely even though the advertised pickles were sorely missed, perhaps a casualty long before the butter ran out as well.
So after trying the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich I realized that I have probably witnessed one too many fast-food crazes over the course of my lifetime. Following the latest trend for over forty years of what’s hot and trendy, be it the McRib at McDonald’s, Nacho Fries at Taco Bell, or any other food item that becomes the latest scuttlebutt will probably have me, and many others reaching a higher cholesterol end sooner than we bargained for. But in the quest to be in the know, we as a society always seem to migrate to something that piques our curiosity, even if it’s not in our best interest. As for Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, a return will come swiftly enough and if what the company says holds and it does become a permanent staple on the menu, everyone will get an opportunity eventually to taste for themselves if it is the pinnacle of fried chicken options. As for my final verdict? It does rank among the elite in its class but even if that’s the case my final answer is this when being asked by a friend on social media, “Was it worth it?”. After reviewing the receipt reminding of the journey I had just taken I replied, “It was good. But no food item is worth that kind of wait if you don’t have to.”
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