Chicken Sandwich War Brutalizes Chicken Sandwich Makers
As large restaurant chains periodically will, a few weeks ago Popeyes Chicken added a chicken sandwich to their menu. Why not? After all, they are a chicken restaurant and all the hamburger joints offer some kind of chicken parts on a bun on their menus. Popeyes wanted a piece of that chicken sammich bizness.
While Twitter has been searched to see who exactly started it, without a pure result, most people believe that Chick-fili-A fired the first shot over Popeyes bow by tweeting their chicken sandwich was better than Popeyes'.
And if Chick-fil-A did fire the first shot, so what? This is business. One company wanted to enter the chicken sandwich field and a more established player marketed their existing sandwich as superior to the new kid's sandwich. That's all it was supposed to be.
But it was too late. It was on.
Though many see Twitter as a modern-day gossip sewer, the business brag went viral. You're no doubt aware of the social media posts of one-up-man-ship of chicken sandwich eaters powerfully asserting their favorite's taste dominance as well as their everlasting love and loyalty to their preferred brand.
Then, talk turned into action as the mere thought of a tasty chicken sandwich drove millions to the drive-throughs, overwhelming and exhausting the front line soldiers in this war: those that actually make the sandwiches.
In an interview (full story here), an 18-year-old Popeyes crew member in Orange County, California said, "I was working like a slave in the back prepping the buns with pickles and the spicy mayo. Everyone wanted to quit so bad because it was that bad, We have never seen it get this insanely busy. My experience at Popeyes has been fine till this sandwich has come."
One employee literally quit in the middle of making two sandwiches while crowds lined up outside her Newark, NJ location last week. Many workers complained of not getting a break their entire shift which now mostly includes overtime. Chicken sandwiches are being made sixty hours a week by some. Demand at one location kept it open until 2:00am when it normally closes at 11:00pm.
A high school senior worried she'd have to quit her chicken-making job as the extended hours and late nights were interfering with school work. The lines at her restaurant reminded her of lines at concessions at large concerts.
Customers in line have also grown impatient and caused trouble. While he was taking out the trash an employee said, "A customer sees me and shouts: 'Do we have a problem or what! Why no sandwiches! You guys are the third Popeye's to say so! You better stop looking at me or else!' I was looking at the line."
Will we soon read of anger getting out of hand in a spate of chicken sandwich rage?
While Chick-fil-A, a long time maker of chicken sandwiches, isn't reporting any issues, the new kid in town is having trouble keeping up with demand. A large chain restaurant just doesn't run over to Market Basket for buns, pickles, and chicken when they're running low. Everything must come from the chain's contracted suppliers pre-mixed with their secret recipes. Popeyes across the country have been consistently running out of the sandwich parts.
And there's no end in sight. Sales figures for both companies on chicken sandwiches have not plateaued, and scanning social media tells me the firestorm is still gathering heat.
I expect both Chick-fil-A and Popeyes all across the country are hiring right now.
Update: News breaking this afternoon suggests the Popeyes chicken sandwich is officially sold out. Sandwiches may remain here and there in restaurants, but as a corporation, the official word is sold out. No plans for the sandwiches return have been announced.
You can still go to Chick-fil-A.