WASHINGTON, DC (AFP) — US restaurant chain Popeyes launched a fried chicken sandwich that became so popular the company has run out of stock — leaving would-be consumers crying fowl.
On August 12, Popeyes — best known for its Cajun-spiced fried chicken — unveiled its latest offering: a deep fried chicken breast on a brioche roll, with spicy mayonnaise and pickle slices.
“We knew there was a very big market in the US for chicken sandwiches, and it was very clear to us that we needed to have ours,” Popeyes Americas president Felipe Athayde told the Miami Herald.
The company — founded in New Orleans in 1972 but based in Florida since its 2017 purchase by Burger King’s parent company RBI — also hoped to upset the pecking order in the growing fried chicken market and dethrone current leader Chick-fil-A.
The sandwich quickly took off on social media, in part thanks to the accompanying Popeyes social media campaign. Another video, of a southern pastor comparing the Popeyes and Chick-fil-A sandwiches in an exaggerated gospel style, went viral.
Soon consumers all over the US were scurrying like headless chickens to the nearest Popeyes. Photographs and videos posted online showed lines of people spilling out of the restaurants.
A city in Nevada was forced to order its local Popeyes to close after the line disrupted traffic.
But the brand has struggled to follow through on demand, and posters promising “more chicken sandwiches” soon appeared in restaurant windows. On Tuesday, Popeyes announced it had completely run out.
“We love that you love The Sandwich,” the company tweeted. “Unfortunately we’re sold out (for now).”
“I think we missed one thing: we did not expect to break the internet… and as a result we ran out much sooner than anticipated,” RBI chief executive Jose Cil told CNN.
The announcement sparked outrage, with many customers vowing to return to the company’s competitors.
“You aren’t sold out, you pulled it off the market to try to cause a stir,” one Twitter user wrote.
“How does a chicken restaurant run out of chicken?” another tweeted. “I’m taking my money & talent back to Chick-fil-A. They would never.”
A Tennessee aficionado sued Popeyes for false advertising, deceptive business practices and causing him to waste “countless time driving” to and from local restaurants in search of the sandwich.
© Agence France-Presse