OPINIONLeadership

In a business of nonconformists, Popeyes founder Al Copeland broke the mold

Restaurant Rewind: During his 64 years, he drew a spotlight time and again, though not always for positive reasons.

Popeyes is emerging as a tough bird to beat in the quick-service fried-chicken market, a distinction that would have delighted its late founder, the flamboyant and pugnacious nonconformist Al Copeland.

Had Copeland done nothing more than create Popeyes, he’d deserve a prime spot in a restaurant industry hall of fame. But his leadership of that chain is only one of the reasons he should be remembered today.

In an industry of cowboys and rebels, he was a standout in his brashness and insistence on marching to his own beat. Industry long-timers would have a tough time naming someone who came close to his uniqueness.

Consider, for instance, that he once not only ran Popeyes but its next closest rival, the chain now known as Church’s Texas Chicken. He fought openly with the author Anne Rice and other neighbors, never yielding an inch. And then there were his ghost stories.

But that’s just a sampling of what made Copeland so unusual. Press play on this week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind to learn more about his exploits in and outside of the restaurant business. You can also click here to read a transcript.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Multimedia

Exclusive Content

Emerging Brands

5 pre-emerging restaurant brands ready for takeoff

These small concepts are still proving out their ideas, but each shows promise as a potential candidate for the next generation of emerging chains.

Technology

This little-known iPhone feature could change restaurant ordering

Tech Check: Almost every customer has a POS in their pocket. Can mini mobile apps get them to actually use it?

Financing

Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.

Trending

More from our partners