From food trucks to high-end restaurants, chicken and waffles has become a foodie staple that customers and restaurants across the country are clamoring to get a taste of. But for the first time, the Southern combo will be available on a mass scale, and not in its typical format.
Today, Popeyes Louisiana Chicken is unveiling its newest product, Chicken Waffle Tenders, which take the brand’s Handcrafted Tenders and dips them in crispy, waffle-style coating, then pairs the combo with a Honey Maple Dipping Sauce. Served with Cajun fries and a biscuit, the limited-time combo can be purchased for $4.99.
Dick Lynch, chief global brand officer for Popeyes, says the success the brand has seen since undergoing a transformation and revitalization over the last five years is largely driven by culinary innovations like the Chicken Waffle Tenders.
Though the brand has long played with the idea of chicken and waffles, vice president of culinary innovation Amy Alarcon says the stumbling block was always to create a product that worked with the concept’s operations.
“We have so much business going through the drive thru and out the door that we wanted to make sure this was something that was portable,” she says. “Instead of trying to do separate waffles and bone-in fried chicken, we said, ‘Why don’t we try dipping our tenders in a really good waffle batter?’”
Alarcon says the tenders’ “sweet, malty, vanilla, maple scents” make the product a complete sensory experience. “You can actually smell this on the tenders when you get your order,” she says. “It’s just got such a lovely aroma.”
Combined with a brown butter, maple honey sauce, the product takes on “that perfect peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper kind of marriage between the two,” Alarcon says.
To capture the product's sensory experience, Popeyes created a series of taste-test videos that have been posted to the brand’s Facebook page in the days leading up to the Chicken Waffle Tenders launch. The videos feature footage of Popeyes customers trying the product for the first time, “because it is a remarkable sensory experience,” Lynch says. “You smell it and you taste it and it’s pretty stunning, and we thought the best way to communicate that is just to videotape people doing it.”
Popeyes is also relying on in-store table tents and its spokeswoman, Annie, to deliver a national, 30-second TV spot surrounding the Chicken Waffle Tenders and its Louisiana heritage.
Lynch says it's this emphasis on the brand’s history and heritage—along with its focus on high-quality food and culinary creations—that make limited-time offers like the Chicken Waffle Tenders resonate so strongly with customers.
“Compared to other [quick-service] brands, Popeyes is just a brand … that has a much more authentic culinary point of view and approach, and I would say our customers are more appreciative of interesting, forward-thinking, forward-leaning flavors and products,” he says.
Alarcon says the brand’s customers appreciate its practice of cooking food like the Chicken Waffle Tenders fresh in the restaurant.
“We hear those words repeated back over and over again from consumers that everything just tastes like it was just prepared in the back, and the reality is it was,” she says. “We don’t see that in a lot of our competitors.”
By Mary Avant