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Popeyes and Burger King Lead the Way

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
November 1, 2023
Popeyes and Burger King Lead the Way

With Q3 2023 behind us, we checked in with Popeyes and Burger King, both owned by Restaurant Brands International (RBI). How have they been performing relative to the wider QSR (quick-service restaurant) category? And what’s in store for them as Q4 2023 gets underway? 

Although the data presented here does not include all drive-thru and pick-up orders – and so does not represent the totality of the brands’ foot traffic – these metrics still provide a strong indication of their performance and visitation trends.

Popeyes Outperforms QSR and Chicken Chains

Four years after Popeyes first launched the sandwich that sparked the great Chicken Wars of 2019, the chain has continued to thrive. By continually refreshing its menu with innovative new products – while keeping its eye on social media – Popeyes has steadily grown its audience. And while no single new product has had quite the same impact as the original chicken sandwich (admittedly, a hard act to follow) – plenty of them have made waves. In March 2023, the chain introduced a limited-time strawberry biscuit – which became so popular it made it onto Popeyes’ permanent menu in May. A couple months later, Popeyes had customers lining up for Sweet N’ Spicy Chicken Wings

And the chain’s strategy – which most recently invited customers to “get fancy” with a TRUFF chicken sandwich – appears to be working. Throughout Q2 2023, Popeyes outperformed the wider QSR and chicken chain segments with consistently positive visit growth, perhaps bolstered in part by the strawberry biscuit craze. And though Popeyes saw foot traffic growth stall in July, the brand still saw modest positive visit growth in August and September – even as QSR and chicken chains floundered. On a quarterly basis, Popeyes experienced slight 0.3% year-over-year (YoY) visit growth in Q3 2023, while QSR and chicken chains maintained YoY visit gaps of 1.4% and 0.8%, respectively.

Burger King

Burger King, RBI’s largest brand, experienced a minor YoY visit gap in Q3 2023 – with visits down 1.1% compared to the equivalent period of 2022. Still, the chain outperformed QSR and burger segments, which saw YoY quarterly visit gaps of 1.4% and 2.5%, respectively. And while YoY visits to Burger King were down 2.3% in July 2023, the brand’s visit gap narrowed in August and September.

And like Popeyes, the popular burger joint isn’t resting on its laurels. In anticipation of Halloween, Burger King brought back the Ghost Pepper Whopper (on Friday, October 13th, of course) – joined this year by Ghost Pepper Chicken Fries. And with an advertising campaign that features a highly-shareable horror short, the Halloween promotion appears primed for success. Burger King also leaned into pop culture with a PAW Patrol-themed Jr. Meal, timed to coincide with the release in theaters of PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie.  

Diving into Popeyes: A Dinner Favorite for Big Families

Some of Popeyes’ success may be driven by its positioning as an affordable dinner destination, where families can indulge in a reasonably-priced supper that doesn’t involve doing dishes. Visitation data shows that while other leading chicken restaurants do more of their business at lunchtime, visits to Popeyes between 12:00 PM and 8:00 PM are evenly divided between the lunch and dinner time slots. Some 39.6% of Popeyes customers visit the chain between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM, compared to 38.0% of KFC customers, and just 35.0% of Chick-fil-A visitors. 

Chick-fil-A’s relatively small share of dinner visits may be due, in part, to the fact that the chain is famously closed on Sundays – a day when many families choose to eat out. But Popeyes’ comparatively firmer role as a dinner-time destination may also be driven by the outsize share of large households in its customer base. Foot traffic data shows that Popeyes’ captured market features a higher share of large households (defined as those with 5 or more people) than the captured markets of KFC and Chick-fil-A. And big families may be particularly enticed by Popeyes’ inexpensive family meals, which make it easy to satisfy a crew on a budget. 

But even as it draws large families, Popeyes continues to attract a significant share of one-person households. And with something for everyone, the chain appears poised to continue to thrive. 

Looking Ahead

Despite economic headwinds which continue to weigh on the dining industry, RBI’s Popeyes and Burger King are holding their own. How will the brands continue to fare heading into the holiday season? And which new menu innovations will hit it out of the park? 

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven location intelligence analyses to find out. 

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