Ever since Popeyes sold out of its fried chicken sandwich —a first-time creation from the fast-food chain that became such a phenomenon, the company ran out of supplies to make it in two weeks—hungry fans have been eagerly awaiting its return to the menu.
On Monday, Popeyes delivered the answer: the sandwich will be back on Sunday, Nov. 3, with hopes that it will remain on the menu on a permanent basis. The announcement also lightly trolled Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain that famously stays closed on Sundays.
The popularity of the Popeyes chicken sandwich will likely be the stuff of 2019 legend. The release of the sandwich in August involved some sharp back-and-forth commentary on Twitter, when the official Popeyes Twitter account took some digs at competitors, including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s. Social media debate, in part, sparked long lines at Popeyes locations across the U.S., along with a string of strange behaviors from customers desperate for a taste of the sandwich. In at least one instance, a group demanded sandwiches at gunpoint at a Houston Popeyes location.
All the excitement came to a quick halt. In late August, about two weeks after its launch, Popeyes announced it had sold out of chicken. The company declined to share how many sandwiches it had projected to sell, versus how much it eventually sold before running out. Bruno Cardinali, Popeyes’ head of marketing for North America, tells TIME the company had expected a high volume of customers and ended up seeing far more than was initially forecasted.
The problem was mostly in the supply chain, Felipe Athayde, President of Popeyes for the Americas, tells TIME. “We literally ran out. There was no more chicken for the chicken sandwich,” he says.
Getting the chicken sandwich back on the menu, a process that has taken about two months, meant Popeyes had to shore up its chicken supply. According to Athayde, it took several weeks to find chicken suppliers that met the company’s strict specifications for quality and quantity and build up an amount that can handle another round of soaring demands.
“This is not a product that you just go out and procure,” he says. Having seen the initial reaction to the chicken sandwich, Athayde says the company now has enough supply to keep the sandwich on the menu permanently.
In an attempt to prepare for the onslaught of customers when the sandwich returns, Popeyes franchises have also hired more workers, the Wall Street Journal reports. At the height of the excitement over the sandwich, Popeyes employees reported feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at the continuously growing lines and impatient customers.
Athayde, who notes that franchise groups handle employment matters rather than the company’s executives, says various franchisees only realized more training and staffing was needed once they were exposed to the strong demand for the sandwiches.
“Those were very tough weeks and those guys were the heroes,” he says, referring to workers.
The relaunch of the chicken sandwich is likely to cause a frenzy on Sunday. This time, one hopes, the sandwich supplies will outlast the discourse.
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