Commentary

All Is Fast Food Fare In Twitter Fowl War

It must be the dog days of August -- because even The New York Times is getting sucked into blow-by-blow coverage of the latest fast-food brouhaha after Popeyes purportedly touched off The Chicken Wars of 2019 with a simple tweet a week ago Monday about its new sandwich.

“That tweet from last week now has the feel of an opening salvo. Things grew heated on Tuesday, when Chick-fil-A tweeted  what appeared to be a coded response to the Popeyes announcement, extolling the virtues of its ‘original’ chicken sandwich,” the NYT’s David Yaffe-Bellany suggests.

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“Popeyes replied  a few hours later: ‘...y’all good?’

“Soon, the ‘passive-aggressive chicken sandwich debate,’ as one news article put it, had escalated into a Twitter battle royal, as other fast-food companies started promoting their own sandwiches. Shake Shack tried to rise above the fray, promising a chicken sandwich ‘without the beef.’”

Blake Alsup tell us  Popeyes “isn’t clucking around” in the New York Daily News. “The sandwich received wide praise on social media and ruffled a few feathers in the fast food industry, causing #ChickenWars to trend on Twitter,” he writes.

Wendy’s, for one, engaged, as it is wont to do, he points out.

And, of course, consumers had their say, too.

“Customers had already pointed out that other than taste, Popeyes has advantages like being open on Sundays and not getting wrapped up in any political or religious rhetoric, unlike Chick-fil-A,” Alsup adds.

The Popeyes rollout was carefully orchestrated, as you’ve no doubt surmised. Vice’s Hilary Pollack blows the lid off Popeyes’ tactics (while ruing that she didn’t pay it the attention, in retrospect, it deserved). 

“On August 7, I received an embargoed email,” her lede entices.

“‘Starting Monday, August 12th, Popeyes will be launching a Chicken Sandwich nationwide,’ it read. ‘Many people don’t realize that Popeyes has never had a Chicken Sandwich on the menu nationwide.

This is a big deal.’

Indeed. 

“Big congrats to Popeyes, which has surely been the biggest winner in all the chicken sandwich social media buzz this week. In New York, locations of the fried chicken chain in high-traffic locations are selling out of the company’s new chicken sandwich, which a variety of online food critics are declaring the best chicken sandwich entry to the fast food market in some time. A Chinatown location of Popeyes was done with the sandwiches by 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and one customer sayshe’s tried to go three times, only to find that they’re out,” Serena Dai writes  for Eater New York.

“Quick, There’s One Popeyes in Arlington Still Serving the Sandwich,” reads the headline on ARLnow.com, which covers the Virginia community.

“The fried chicken chain has been selling out of its wildly popular, critically acclaimed new chicken sandwiches nationwide, and Arlington is no exception -- but one shining beacon of salty and fatty goodness in the county was still serving as of mid-afternoon today,” Vernon Miles contributes.

Meanwhile, no less august a voice than The New Yorkertells an intriguing origins story of the gustatory phenomenon. Helen Rosner also offers up a sage comment on the marketing battle that has ensued after it’s nationwide debut. 

“The rest of us can watch the mega-chains spar, jockeying for the love of some abstract ideal of a sarcastic Gen Z-er, or whoever it is they think they’re performing for. But these things aren’t decided in memes -- they’re decided in mouths.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Conor Sen presents evidence going back to Burger King’s 1957 introduction of the Whopper to make the case that fast-food companies introduce “new product offerings (at higher prices) to woo existing or new customers” when unemployment is low, as it is nowadays.

And for fast food gourmands, it’s like brioche from heaven.

“The Popeyes chicken sandwich isn’t trying to be bigger or cheaper; the hook is really about trying to be a better chicken sandwich than Chick-fil-A’s by featuring a brioche bun, a full layer of pickles, and either a spicy Cajun spread or mayonnaise. While the nearest Chick-fil-A to me sells its chicken sandwich for $3.49, the Popeyes one is 14% higher at $3.99,” he writes.

“The economy’s good times can’t go on forever, but some booms give us a gift that lasts: the Whopper, the Big Mac, the Six Dollar Burger -- and now, perhaps, the Impossible Burger and the Popeyes chicken sandwich,” Sen concludes.

It may be hard to believe as we get caught up in the tweets, but there are even better ideasout there.

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