Popeyes Sold Out Of Its Chicken Sandwich, But What Are The Larger Implications?


If you haven’t eaten Popeyes new Chicken Sandwich yet, you’ve probably at the least tried to. Whether you didn’t score a sandwich because your local Popeyes sold out or you saw a line wrapped around the block and decided that a burger sounded just as good, you’ve no doubt been thinking about chicken sandwiches way more than you’ve ever expected to this week.

Well, the hype for Popeyes new menu item has finally reached it’s breaking point — as the company has just announced that they’re officially tapped out… for now at least. If you haven’t had the sandwich yet, you can pretty much kiss any chance of trying it this month or the next goodbye. While you may be able to find a few sandwiches floating around here and there (or pick up one for $1000 from Quavo), it looks like Popeyes will have to go from affixing make-shift “sold out” signs to their stores to printing out something more official.

Along with the announcement on Twitter, Popeyes has said the quickest way to be alerted of when the sandwich goes back on sale is to download the app, but given the buzz, we’re sure you’re going to hear about it whether you’re trying to or not.

In a statement to Delish, the company thanked their loyal fans and explained that the popularity of the sandwich even exceeded their own expectations, “The demand for the new Chicken Sandwich in the first few weeks following launch far exceeded our very optimistic expectations. In fact, Popeyes aggressively forecasted demand through the end of September and has already sold through that inventory.”

The back-patting is nice, but maybe Popeyes should kick some appreciation towards their diligent workers — who’ve had one hell of a week dealing with the demand. Having been on the ground floor during the hype, I saw the stress build up in an entire Popeyes staff as they dealt with what seemed like an endless line and struggled to keep a rabid fan base appeased.

Meanwhile, other concerns about the brand and its sourcing have bubbled up in the progressive food media. We’ve already discussed in detail the questionable ethics behind where Popeyes chicken comes from, and many think pieces since the sandwich’s launch point out the dark side of this sort of fast food phenomenon.

Perhaps none have hit harder than Soleil Ho’s piece for the SF Chronicle. Ho writes:

The sandwich was delicious for what it was: a cheap product where the true cost is carried by marginalized people and animals besides the consumer. It seems that, as a culture, many of us who can afford to choose from many options of what to eat vacillate between caring a lot about the welfare of our meat animals and restaurant workers and being willing to put up with anything for the sake of momentary pleasure… eye-catching bag designs, whatever political symbolism is inscribed in the object itself — they all function as distractions from the real-world consequences of the choices we make. It is possible to hold all of these truths together and sit with whatever inconvenient implications they lead us toward.

Increasingly, eating fast food is a deeper and more impactful act than we intend and we need to start dealing with that fact, especially if you’re privileged enough to not live in a food desert — where access to fresh food and healthier options are often non-existent. Sure, we don’t want to think about big issues when trying to eat, but there is a lot to consider. Among the issues worth pondering while you’re waiting for the Popeyes sandwich to come back:

  • How this viral moment created tremendous profit on the backs of underpaid workers.
  • The effect of fast food production on the environment.
  • The quick abandonment of values-driven approach to the food system thanks to $23 million in free publicity.

Heady stuff, right?

Look, the sandwich is indeed tasty. And we’re not telling you not to eat. But it would be much more satisfying if this phenomenon is able to jumpstart important conversations about the modern food system. Or at least leads to a bonus for the workers who made it possible.