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Placer Bites: Popeyes, Burger King Drive RBI's Big Quarter & Walgreens Outlook

Ethan Chernofsky
October 28, 2019
Placer Bites: Popeyes, Burger King Drive RBI's Big Quarter & Walgreens Outlook

Restaurant Brands International (QSR) is the parent company of two of the more interesting QSR brands in the country - Burger King and Popeyes. With McDonald’s recently seeing a dip in visits, questions will naturally arise around the performance of RBI’s two leading players.

So what did Q3 mean for Burger King and Popeyes?

Chicken Wars Dominance

Whether it be the tremendous impact it had on Popeyes or the wider effect of the social media phenomenon that was the #chickenwars, it is clear that chicken sandwiches were the king of summer. Popeyes saw so much value in the craze that their daily visit numbers came into Burger King range, even though they have less than a third the number of US locations.

And the impact of this was enormous. Analyzing baseline change for Popeyes between July 2017 and September 2019 shows that August 2019 was a massive 65.2% above the baseline, a huge number for a company with steady visit rates throughout the year. Yet, this massive peak was building upon growth that had already appeared in July. July 2019 visits were 12.2% above the baseline, a huge jump over July 2018’s 2.3%. Even September 2019 benefitted, with visits at 0.4% above the baseline compared to 7% below in 2018.

What About the King?

And while the Popeyes effect was clear to anyone watching the sector, RBI’s boost may be further pushed by Burger King’s strong summer. Visits to Burger King locations nationwide were up 16.1% in July 2019 compared to the same month in 2018, 15.2% up in August 2019 compared to August 2018 and even up 3.2% in September.

These are significant jumps that speak to a powerful opportunity among the wider RBI portfolio that go well beyond the Chicken Wars.

Walgreens Mixed Quarter

Walgreens hasn’t had the best year. Alongside plans to shutter Rite Aid and Boots locations, they also announced a plan in August to close hundreds of Walgreens locations as well. We dug into Q3 data to see what this might mean for the overall picture of Walgreens traffic. 

The first important thing to note is that the brand saw Year over Year growth in Q3 2018 in each month compared to the same month in 2017. Looking at the Year over Year traffic change in 2019 is more of a mixed bag. July traffic was down 0.2% compared to July 2018, though a change this small is hardly cause for significant worry. August 2019 traffic was up 1.9% over August 2018, a promising sign. Though there was a significant 6.4% decline in September traffic, however, this mirrors wider decreases across the retail landscape in that month. 

So are things good or bad? The likely answer is mixed. Traffic is indeed down Year over Year, but there are promising signs that these are certainly recoverable visits - including the August growth. Additionally, Walgreens seems focused on taking strong steps to drive a return to growth including pushing innovative ideas like a new partnership with FedEx, and a drive to open Primary Care Centers in locations. These decisions collectively reflect strong approaches to driving more visits (FedEx) and more substantial visits (Primary Care) that can increase overall traffic, visit durations and, hopefully, purchases.

Yet, a lot could be told by the way the closures happen. If Walgreen can effectively close the right stores - ones with a higher level of cannibalization, or lesser performance - the impact may actually boost operational efficiency without hurting revenues too much. Indeed, the ability to better optimize locations could speak volumes to the brand’s future potential.

How will the RBI portfolio build upon its strong performance? Can Walgreens restructure to find growth? Visit to find out.

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