Popeyes is launching its famous chicken sandwich north of the border Wednesday, but fast food lovers in Ontario will have to wait at least several more weeks before they can get a taste.
While the original plan was to test the sandwich at Popeyes restaurants in one Ontario city within driving distance of Toronto, the company is now shifting its focus to Edmonton and parts of northern Alberta due to health concerns.
“Alberta’s a little bit further along from a COVID standpoint than Ontario is so Edmonton is somewhere that we felt more comfortable testing,” said Rob Manuel, general manager of Popeyes Canada.
“Our restaurants there are also a little bit larger, most of them have drive-thrus, and so we think from a distancing standpoint that made sense for a test market.”
Manuel says the company is keeping a close eye on health regulations in Ontario and hopes to begin testing the sandwich at restaurants in London and Windsor at some point in the weeks to come.
If the initial product tests are successful, Popeyes plans to roll out the sandwich across Canada in a matter of months.
“September is still the plan. We are very closely monitoring where Canada will be from a health situation,” said Manuel. “But assuming it feels safe and right to do so, we plan to have it nationally this fall.”
The popular chicken sandwich sparked long lineups at American restaurants over the past year and has helped prop up profits for the fast food chain during the COVID-19 pandemic. Popeyes sales were up 32% across the United States in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the final quarter of 2019.
While the sandwich sells for $3.99 south of the border, it appears Canadians will be forced to pay more.
The classic chicken sandwich being tested in Edmonton will cost $6.49. A deluxe version featuring lettuce and tomato will sell for $6.99.
When the sandwich does arrive in Ontario, Manuel predicts physical distancing won’t be a significant problem.
“We think delivery will be a really big part of this. Our business has changed a lot over the past couple of months, specifically in Ontario where we have less drive-thrus, there’s a very significant percentage of our sales happening through delivery. I imagine that will continue for the immediate future.”