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The Key for RBI

Ethan Chernofsky
February 10, 2020
The Key for RBI

Even on the back of an incredibly strong Q3 for Popeyes and Burger King, parent company Restaurant Brands International suffered due to the struggles of Tim Horton’s. With Q4 earnings on the horizon, we dove into the performance of all three brands to see whether RBI can see strong results across its portfolio.

Popeyes Continues to Dominate

Yes, the Chicken Wars peak was insane and impressive, but even more important may be the even greater heights the brand achieved with the return of the chicken sandwich in Q4. The relaunch of the sandwich in November actually surpassed the initial, social media crazed launch giving a huge boost to Q4.

Taking the period from January 2018 through December 2019, November and December visits in late 2019 dramatically surpassed anything the brand had seen. November visits were 114.8% above the baseline, far beyond the 46.6% number set in August’s launch, while December visits matched August’s mark exactly. While that is impressive in its own right, the year-over-year growth is even more staggering. 2018 visits for November and December were 17.5% and 12.1% below the baseline for the period putting these new 2019 heights into even better context.

Comparing all of 2018 visits to 2019, the brand saw an increase of 26.8% from a craze that was primarily focused on just three months. What’s incredibly impressive is that the brand went from a social craze to a sustained force that has managed to find another level of success. Should this power maintain deeper into 2020, Popeyes may become an even more significant QSR powerhouse.

The Rise of the King

Calling yourself the king of hamburgers is a lofty standard to keep up with, yet Burger King seems to be doing just that. 2019 visits for the brand were 9.1% higher overall than 2018 speaking to an exceptional year for in-store demand.

Yet, while it was definitely a great year for Burger King, the success was more mixed in Q4. October visits were 11.1% above the baseline, compared to 6.1% above in 2018, and November visits were 1.1% above in 2019 compared to 0.4% below in 2018. Yet, December visits dropped from 8.8% above the baseline in 2018, to 3.8% above in 2019.

Overall, Q4 brought a strong end to an even stronger year for the brand, building momentum into 2020. But the real thing to watch could be an attempt to make a stronger move into breakfast following similar decisions from competitors like McDonalds and Wendys.

RBI’s Coffee Question

It hasn’t been a rosy period for Tim Horton’s. The brand has seen declines over the last few years, executives have moved on and the impact has been felt. Yet, there are indications that the U.S. operation may be seeing a turnaround.

Looking at the period from January 2018 through December 2019 shows a Q4 performance for the brand that is promising. October and November visits were up year-over-year, with visits 11.5% and 2.9% above the baseline for the period, far better than 2018’s 4.9% above the baseline in October and 4.2% below in November. However, December did show a decline from 0.6% below the baseline in 2018 to 3.2% below in 2019.

The stronger Q4 brought overall year-over-year visit growth to 1.1% in the U.S. Should international numbers see a similar impact, the negative pull on the overall RBI performance could be negated, allowing Popeyes and Burger King to better revel in their strong performances. 
Can Tim Horton’s really drive a U.S. turnaround? Visit to find out.

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