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Popeyes sales continue to soar while Burger King and Tim Hortons fall

The chicken chain’s same-store sales rose 19.7% last quarter even as its sister chains both continued to see declines.
Popeye's Same store sales
Photograph: Shutterstock

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s same-store sales rose 19.7% in the U.S. last quarter, continuing the company’s year-long run of strength on the back of its new chicken sandwich, according to preliminary results from parent company Restaurant Brands International on Wednesday.

But both of its sister chains continued to struggle. Burger King’s U.S. same-store sales declined 3.2% in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Globally, the chain’s same-store sales declined 7%, thanks to a 10.3% decline at its restaurants outside the U.S.

At Tim Hortons in Canada, same-store sales declined 13.7%. Outside of Canada Tim Hortons’ same-store sales declined 3.6%.

For Popeyes, however, the result was the first test of the chain as it began comparing itself against quarters when the chicken sandwich was introduced. The numbers since suggest that the company has settled into a sales pattern that is about 30% higher than it was before the existence of that sandwich—though, to be fair, the pandemic itself appears to have elevated fast-food chains’ sales in recent months. And the numbers do appear to be slowing somewhat.

Popeyes introduced the sandwich during the third quarter a year ago, generating remarkably long lines for several days as consumers rushed to try the product—until the company ran out of supplies within two weeks. The company would wait until November to reintroduce the sandwich, and sales picked right up again and stopped for only a three-week hiatus at the outset of shutdowns in March.

On a two-year “stacked” basis, Popeyes’ U.S. same-store sales was up 29.9% in the third quarter, adding the 19.7% result to the 10.2% figure from the third quarter a year ago. That was modestly down from the 31.4% two-year number in the second quarter, but similar to the 29.6% two-year number in the first quarter that was hurt by the first two weeks of the pandemic.

Popeyes U.S. same-store sales

Source: Restaurant Brands International

As for Tim Hortons, the results continue a slow improvement. The chain accounts for nearly 60% of RBI’s total revenue, and its 4,000 Canadian locations represent the bulk of its system. The chain’s locations outside of Canada have performed better, with same-store sales down 3.6% for the quarter. Most of Tim Hortons’ non-Canada locations are in the U.S.

But its Canadian operations have been challenged of late, including a 1.2% same-store sales decline in the third quarter a year ago.

For Burger King, the chain was comparing itself against an especially strong quarter from a year ago, when same-store sales rose 5%. But the chain’s sales results overall have been weaker than competitors McDonald’s and Wendy’s for the past year. McDonald’s last week said its same-store sales rose 4.6% last quarter and was up in the double digits in September. Wendy’s has yet to report its third-quarter numbers, but its new breakfast daypart has been expected to provide a strong tailwind.

Restaurant Brands International, based in Toronto, said that it expects revenues to be between $1.32 billion and $1.34 billion, while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, is expected to be between $555 million and $565 million. The company said that 96% of its systemwide restaurants were open as of the end of September.

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