Popeyes takes on China

The chicken chain drew long lines to its opening in Shanghai over the weekend as it works to take on behemoth KFC in the massive market.
Popeyes China
Customers began lining up the night before the grand opening of Popeyes' flagship Shanghai restaurant. | Photos courtesy of Tims China

Popeyes opened its new flagship restaurant in Shanghai on Saturday in what the company hopes will be the first of thousands of restaurants in China.

Customers began lining up outside the restaurant the night before, then lined up throughout the day while a jazz band played, the company said in a press release. By the end of the day, the location took 1,761 orders, an opening day record for the Miami-based chicken chain.

Popeyes in March inked a deal with Tims China to develop restaurants in the country, the world’s second-largest economy and a rapidly growing restaurant market. And it is hoping that the operator can get Popeyes up to speed as quickly as it has Tim Hortons.

Tims China opened its 700th location of the Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain in July, just four years after opening its first location in the country. The operator last year went public in a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

The company plans to open 10 Popeyes restaurants in China this year and 1,700 in the country over the next decade.

Popeyes China menu

Popeyes features a localized menu including sweet chili chicken, golden cheese, chicken nuggets and a pomelo milkshake. | Image courtesy of Tims China. 

Popeyes is hoping to eventually become a substantial competitor to KFC in China, but it has a long way to go for that to happen, even if Tims China were to quickly realize its development goals there. KFC is a behemoth in China, with 9,600 restaurants in the country.

KFC builds about 1,000 restaurants in China every year. “Our proven track record of opening 700 Tims stores over the past four years shows our our team can deliver on an accelerated growth strategy,” Yongchen Lu, CEO of Tims China, said in a statement. Lu added that the addition of Popeyes would create supply chain synergies that should benefit both brands.

Popeyes in China features a localized menu tailored to local tastes, such as sweet chili chicken, golden cheese and chicken nuggets, along with a Longjing tea-based pomelo milkshake. But Popeyes does serve its signature items, including spicy chicken, Louisiana-style Cajun popcorn shrimp, mashed potatoes and Cajun gravy.

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