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.

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