While we're very encouraged that the Chicken Sandwich was an important driver of sales in the fourth quarter, our other core offerings also performed very well,” Cil said. “And for the vast majority of our guests purchasing the sandwich, we saw that they actually spent more on other products than on the sandwich itself, resulting in very healthy check levels and incredibly valuable awareness in trial.”
The CEO thinks this momentum can carry Popeyes into an entirely new stratosphere within the quick-service industry. He said there is opportunity in the coming years to turn Popeyes “from a brand with cult status into a true mainstream player in the U.S.”
Reaching that goal could start with off-premises growth; RBI chief operating officer Joshua Kobza reported during the earnings call that Popeyes had “ramped up delivery significantly in the U.S. to over 1,600 restaurants and drove its strong increase in sales this year, especially following our highly successful Migos promotion,” he said, noting the company’s partnership with hip-hop artist Migos that offered an exclusive “Migos Menu” via Uber Eats. “Today, delivery at Popeyes in the U.S. represents about a $250 million business on an annualized basis.”
Burger King: “A new platform for the brand”
While Burger King’s growth for 2019 and Q4 in particular was more meager than Popeyes’, the company reported incremental sales from the meatless Impossible Whopper—plus, perhaps more importantly, the potential to further develop plant-based offerings. Cil said the product had “strong performance” for the year despite a deceleration in comparable sales growth from Q3 to Q4.
He added that the Impossible Whopper’s premium price point was a barrier to trial for some customers. In January, Burger King added the Impossible Whopper to its two for $6 menu promotion.
“Given the sustained performance of the Impossible Whopper, we're confident that plant-based food represents a new platform for the brand and one that we can build into new occasions, dayparts, products, and proteins,” Cil said. “The product clearly resonates with our guests and we plan to invest behind our leadership in the fast-growing plant-based segment.”
To that end, Burger King has in the last few months rolled out tests of four new Impossible products: the Impossible Whopper Jr., the Impossible Burger, the Impossible Cheeseburger, and the Impossible Croissan’wich, which includes an Impossible sausage patty.
The bigger opportunities for Burger King may be in its international business and its branding and technology makeover.