Why Popeyes Ran Out of Chicken Sandwiches, Despite a Glut of Chicken Meat

Pop culture crazes are nothing new in the United States. Becoming unreasonably, though temporarily, obsessed with a zeitgeist influencing moment is almost akin to a psychological fashion in this country.

In 2016, Americans were enthralled by the Pokémon Go mobile game. Now we have the fevered Popeyes chicken sandwich mania of summer 2019.

On August 12, Popeyes put its chicken sandwich on its menu to little fanfare.

Chick-fil-A, a competitor, sent out a playful tweet referencing Popeyes’ chicken sandwich and claimed to be the originator.

Popeyes’ response tweet — a cheeky “y’all good?” — generated 300,000 likes, 85,000 retweets, intense social media engagement, and mobilized its patrons to seek out the sandwich.

Popeyes sold 1,000 chicken sandwiches at every store daily. That’s double its daily foot traffic. A national one-month supply inventory for the sandwich sold out in two weeks before August ended.

Consumers drove city to city to get the sandwich. Minimum wage-earning Popeyes workers dealt with long lines and verbally abusive customers.

Sandwich war

Then someone pulled a gun on Popeyes workers when told the sandwich was unavailable.

People are incredulous at the notion that Popeyes could run out of chicken. However, it all boils down to supply logistics and planning.

The American poultry market is oversupplied with 43 billion pounds of chicken meat. Still, each product on a fast food menu is ordered via suppliers according to specification, size, dimensions, ingredients, and exact quantities delivered on exact timetables.

Supplies cannot be replenished instantaneously, nor supply-chain logistics realigned, just because Twitter made a chicken sandwich an overnight sensation.

The Popeyes chicken sandwich went unnoticed until Chick-fil-A’s Twitter rivalry cause consumers to take notice.

Even though there is an industry oversupply of chicken meat, it takes time to sources supplies for specific menu items.

Though unplanned, the scarcity principle worked in Popeyes’ favor and reenergized its brand. So, when will the Popeyes chicken sandwich return?

The company is working on reintroducing the sandwich to its menu now. No official date has been set.