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After a Twitter spat with Chick-fil-A over chicken sandwiches, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen walked away with a larger spike in its follower count — but that might not matter for its long-term sales.
Popeyes, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International, brought a chicken sandwich to its national menu for the first time last week. With pickles and a buttered bun, it looks a lot like a Chick-fil-A sandwich.
Chick-fil-A, the biggest chicken chain in the U.S. by sales, alluded to the new sandwich Monday in a tweet that said "Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the [heart] for the original" about its own chicken sandwich.
Popeyes replied, asking the Atlanta-based company "... y'all good?"
Chick-fil-A did not respond, but other restaurant chains, like Wendy's and Shake Shack, joined in to boast about their own chicken sandwiches. Social media users also chimed in to share their favorite fast-food chicken sandwich.
Popeyes started off with roughly a tenth of Chick-fil-A's Twitter followers. The fried chicken chain had 107,229 followers as of Aug. 18, compared to Chick-fil-A's 1,026,039, according to data from Thinknum. Popeyes received more likes and retweets than Chick-fil-A on its tweet and walked away with roughly 25,000 new followers as of Wednesday, Thinknum found. Chick-fil-A only added about 10,000 new followers as a result of its tweet.
New followers might not translate into new customers or a sales bump for either chain, however.
"In general, a follower is less valuable for a brand than a regular person or influencer," Sean Spielberg, co-founder and CEO of Instascreener, a social media analytics firm that focuses on influencer marketing.
Spielberg said that brands tend to receive less engagement — fewer likes or comments when taking its number of followers into account — from its followers than a regular person or influencer, individuals or celebrities who can sway public opinion.
"More often than not, [follower count] is a vanity metric," he said.
Still, the debate over the two sandwiches and subsequent media attention is helping drive some awareness and demand for the new sandwich. Leezandra, a 23 year old from Nashua, New Hampshire, said that she tried to get the sandwich after seeing the debate on Twitter, but her local store was sold out. She eats at both Chick-fil-A and Popeyes and tends to make her decision based on which is closer.
Leezandra's local Popeyes is not the only location to run out.
"Many of our restaurants have seen a high demand for the sandwich, with guests excited to give it a try," Popeyes spokeswoman Dara Schopp said in a statement. "A few restaurants have temporarily sold out of the sandwich, and we are working to make sure they receive more as soon as possible."
It is too early to tell if the chicken sandwich will drive traffic to Popeyes in the long term and help its sales catch up to Chick-fil-A's.
The average Chick-fil-A location rakes in more sales than a Popeyes store. In 2018, a franchised Chick-fil-A restaurant that was not in a mall raked in $5.7 million in sales on average, according to franchise disclosure documents. The average free-standing franchised Popeyes location saw annual sales of $1.5 million last year.