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Popeyes’ chicken sandwich is so popular it’s adding nuggets to the menu

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

After the wild success of its chicken sandwich, Popeyes is adding more poultry to its menu with the launch of nuggets.

The item will be available starting July 27 to Popeyes customers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nuggets will essentially be smaller, bun-less versions of the sandwich. Like the chicken used in the company’s popular sandwich, the nuggets are breaded in buttermilk and fried.

It’s a tricky time to introduce a new chicken item. Demand for white meat chicken is growing as more chains add fried chicken sandwiches to their menus. Supply chain constraints have driven up the prices of some chicken parts, and some restaurants are having a hard time meeting demand.

“Popeyes is not immune to macro factors impacting the entire industry,” a Popeyes spokesperson said, adding that the team is working daily with its supply team.

Still, the chain is confident that the rollout will go smoothly — after all, it’s had to deal with shortages before.

When Popeyes first introduced its chicken sandwich in August 2019, customers flocked to the restaurant chain, and the sandwich sold out in less than two weeks. The brand said at the time that the “extraordinary demand” took it by surprise. The chain brought the menu item back in the fall of 2019. Popeyes said then that it had made sure it had enough product to meet demand and had hired more employees to prepare for the relaunch.

That experience has helped Popeyes prepare to launch its nuggets, according to the spokesperson, who said the chain is “confident in the changes made with supply, forecasting and staffing since the chicken sandwich launch.”

The chicken sandwich has been a valuable addition to the Popeyes menu.

Sales at all Popeyes restaurants jumped about 42% to $1.3 billion in the last three months of 2019, compared to the same time a year earlier, thanks in large part to the relaunch. Since then, the sandwich has continued to help boost Popeyes’ sales.

“The single biggest highlight at Popeyes is a solid, continued performance that our chicken sandwich is driving for the business,” Jose Cil, CEO of Popeyes’ parent company Restaurant Brands International, said in an April analyst call discussing the company’s first quarter results. “With the success of the Popeyes chicken sandwich, the team is motivated to continue the long-term menu innovation pipeline,” he said.

The chain has already tried to recreate the success of its chicken sandwich with another product. Earlier this year, Popeyes introduced a fish sandwich, made with the same bun and pickles used in its chicken sandwich, for a limited time. Cil called that product “a great complement to our chicken sandwich.”

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