Popeyes has big expansion plans for 2022.
The chicken chain is set to open more than 200 new locations in the United States and Canada this year, the company announced Tuesday. Popeyes also said it will launch additional locations in several other places around the world, including in South Korea, France, India, China and the United Kingdom.
Over half of the new Popeyes locations that are scheduled to open in 2022 will feature double drive-thrus, designed to get customers through the queue faster.
Speedy drive-thru times are very important to fast food restaurants. If a customer gets held up in a Popeyes’ line, they might go to a competitor next time — and on the flip side, consistently fast service can drive loyalty. Tech improvements are also coming to Popeyes’ kitchens to help employees in the back of the house work more efficiently.
A handful of the new restaurants will be in New York City, including a new flagship location in Times Square as well as others in Manhattan and Staten Island.
The Times Square restaurant, set to open in the fall, will include special features such as a new design, branded merchandise, self-serve kiosks and some type of 21st-century dumbwaiter described as a “two-story food transporter” for customers dining on the second floor.
Popeyes has already been a growth driver for parent company Restaurant Brands International (QSR), which also owns Burger King and Tim Hortons. RBI is hoping to spur even more growth with the expansion investment.
“Popeyes is one of the fastest-growing brands within RBI, particularly as it relates to building new restaurants,” Popeyes president Sami Siddiqui told CNN Business. “The majority of growth is expected in the US and Canada, where the business has accelerated substantially.”
Siddiqui’s comments echo those made by RBI CEO Jose Cil earlier this year. “Development remains a key priority … for the brand for long-term growth,” Cil said during an analyst call in February. “We’re just scratching the surface on opportunities for Popeyes, and I firmly believe that the brand is poised to become one of the fastest growing in the industry.”
Cil’s comments are reflected in Popeyes’ performance during the pandemic. It’s been a jewel in RBI’s portfolio, especially when compared to the challenges its other brands faced early in the pandemic.
In 2020, system-wide sales at Tim Horton restaurants fell by 17.5% compared to the year prior, and sales at Burger King spots dropped 11.1%. By contrast, Popeyes sales jumped 17.7% in that same period, thanks in part to customer interest in the chain’s chicken sandwich.
Last year, Tim Hortons and Burger King bounced back. System-wide sales increased 12.5% at Tim’s restaurants, and 15.9% for the same category of stores at Burger King.
Popeyes also saw improvement in 2021, though it was more modest after its gains in 2020: System-wide sales rose 7.3% last year. Popeyes opened 208 new restaurants throughout 2021, making it “a milestone year,” Cil said in February.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the timing of the opening of Popeyes' Times Square location. It is expected to open in the fall of 2022. An earlier version also mischaracterized the type of sales growth RBI restaurants experienced in 2020 and 2021. The growth describes system-wide sales compared to a year ago.