Placer Bites: Popeyes, Papa Johns and TGI Fridays

Popeyes…. Clucking Amazing

It’s difficult not to rave about how unbelievably successful Popeyes has been in the last few months. The Chicken Sandwich craze and the #chickenwars battle that ignited it was a fun summer story. But to give all of the credit to a social craze belies just how effectively Popeyes has been able to leverage the event to get to even greater heights. 

The graph below shows daily visits to Popeyes locations nationwide compared to the baseline for the period. From the relaunch on November 3rd – a day that was over 286% above the baseline for the period from January 1st, 2017 through November 8th, 2019 – traffic has been astoundingly high with the worst day coming Thursday the 7th with a percentage only 188.1% above the baseline. Visits then returned to their full glory on Friday the 8th at 245.9% above the baseline, losing out to only the highest point of the summer craze in August. This means that somehow, the second coming of the sandwich outpaced the initial buzz and excitement.

And while this is already enough to deserve praise, it comes from a foundation built for long-term success.

Popeyes will be hard-pressed to sustain this level of interest, but even a return to the norm is a strong proposition. The company has been on an impressive trajectory in 2019 with only two months seeing traffic below the mark set on the same month a year prior. This speaks to a powerful combination of steady growth with the ability to produce massive home runs. If Popeyes proves capable of finding other elements of magic in their product line – even if they don’t reach the extravagant levels of August and November 2019 – there are ample reasons to feel very good about their long term prospects.

Essex Crossing’s Glowing Potential

When we looked at Essex Crossing earlier this year we noted a project that had just hit a May high point, and a positive trend that promised exciting potential. Digging back in several months later has only reinforced the excitement. Essex Crossing has continued to drive interest with visits reaching a new peak in July 2019 at over 550,000 visitors. The tremendous growth is highlighted by significant Year-over-Year growth each month in 2019 thus far. Even more impressively, the location looks poised for even greater things.

Looking at the last 6 months of visits from February through October shows a very interesting trend when comparing Essex Crossing with the more highly touted Hudson Yards. While the latter certainly has more visits over the period and a greater tourist appeal, Essex Crossing benefits from serving as a local hot spot. Over 50% of visitors come from within 5 miles, vastly more than the 22.54% seen by Hudson Yards. 

This speaks to two critical factors working in Essex Crossing’s favor. Firstly, the local haunt status will only be bolstered by new stores and new residential buildings scheduled for opening through the early 2020s. These openings will expand the local audience the site has proved so adept at attracting. Secondly, Essex Crossing was developed with the aim of seamlessly integrating with the area – both from a design and social perspective. The hope was this local approach would create a sustainable stream of visits that don’t rely on tourism or a certain visitor persona to succeed.

And this looks like it’s working. While Hudson Yards traffic certainly outpaces Essex Crossing, at the end of the tourism summer peak, several days in October showed visit rates that were nearly equal if not outright privileging Essex Crossing. While Essex Crossing does grow month over month, it has strong regular, daily traffic giving it a huge asset with consistent traffic flows.

Chains on the Rise?

Two national chains that have been under increased scrutiny of late are Papa Johns (PZZA) and TGI Fridays. The former is still on the mend after a series of controversies negatively impacted performance in 2018 and early 2019. Yet, Q3 performance actually showed positive signs for the first time this year. Visits in July and August were up 4.5% and 6.1% above the baseline in 2019, above the 3.3% and 5.2% numbers for the same months in 2018. 

The movement is a positive reflection as in-store visits can be the highest intent signals a brand gets.

On the other hand, TGI Fridays recently announced a merger guided by the express intent of taking the company public. While the Papa Johns may have enjoyed a Q3 rebound, TGI Fridays seems to be struggling with a malady plaguing the wider Fast Casual sector – significantly declining visits. 2019 has been a difficult one for the brand thus far, with each month seeing lower traffic than the year before. While a rebound is by no means out of the question, the turnaround will have to be significant in order to right the ship ahead of a public offering.

What else can location analytics tell you about these projects and brands? Visit to find out.

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