The Korea Herald


Popeyes makes strong Korean comeback

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Jan. 24, 2023 - 14:41

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Popeyes' bestselling chicken sandwich (Popeyes) Popeyes' bestselling chicken sandwich (Popeyes)

US fried chicken fast food chain Popeyes is reporting strong sales after its return to the South Korean market.

According to Silla Group, the operator of Korean Popeyes outlets, more than 5,000 customers visited its Gangnam branch during the first three days of the chain's relaunch, which took place on Dec. 16.

In addition, as of Tuesday, more than 50,000 chicken sandwiches -- the chain's newly launched flagship menu -- were sold during the month after the store's first opening.

The strong sales are largely attributed to the chain's marketing tactics to bring homey recipes from Louisiana -- a region that is believed to be the birthplace of US-style Cajun fried chicken -- to Korea, according to Silla Group.

"Popeyes used the recipe of its global headquarters in Korean stores to maximize the taste of American Cajun-style fried chicken and sandwiches," said an official from Silla Group.

"The new Popeyes strategy is to incorporate the unique culture of the southern US in Korea. Mac and cheese, fried chicken, biscuits and Cajun fries are representative menu items of the southern US. (Korean Popeyes outlets) aim to seamlessly embody the atmosphere and culture of the region," he added.

The US chain's return to the Korean market follows its two-year hiatus here, when it ceased operations in December 2020 after 26 years of business.

Reasons for its business termination in the country included the saturated market for fast food franchises and a decrease in sales due to spread of the pandemic.

According to an audit report by TS Food & System, the previous operator of Popeyes, the chain's sales for 2020 had fallen 30.8 percent from the year before to 12.5 billion won ($10 million), while operating losses recorded 1.29 billion won, a 29.7 percent increase from 2019.

The recent relaunch of Popeyes restaurants here come as Korean retailer Silla Group acquired the master franchise right from Popeye’s owner Restaurant Brands International in 2021, with the ambition of revitalizing the brand's foray into the country.

"Since Popeyes withdrew its business from Korea in 2020, there have been many consumers who have asked for the chain's return. (The company) judged that with the new menu items, Popeyes will be more competitive than ever and also stimulate nostalgia for Korean consumers who have missed the brand," a Popeyes official said.

"The company is expecting to open Popeyes' third franchise store in Hwagok Station by the end of January," he added.

The chain's second outlet opened on Dec. 20 in Guro Digital Complex, southwestern Seoul.