Booming Popeye's chicken sandwich sales boost business ahead of relaunch

The chicken sandwich propelled Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen to one of its best quarters in almost two decades.

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The fast-food chain reported comparable sales rose 10.2 percent versus a year ago in the U.S., amid strong demand for the chicken sandwich, and 9.7 percent globally – almost double Wall Street expectations.

"The performance of the chicken sandwich far exceeded our most ambitious expectations and brought Popeyes into the national and international spotlight," Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said on the company's third-quarter earnings call on Monday.

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QSRRESTAURANT BRANDS INTERNATIONAL INC.66.00+0.20+0.30%

He added that the publicity around the chicken sandwich, which is scheduled to return on Nov. 3, "lifted all other parts of the business," including bone-in-chicken business, tenders, beverages and desserts.

WHY IT TOOK MONTHS FOR POPEYES TO BRING BACK ITS CHICKEN SANDWICH

While the chicken sandwich was important to Popeyes' sales growth, it's "important to remember that it was only in stores for two weeks," Cil said, adding that the media coverage surrounding the sandwich generated millions of dollars of free coverage.

The strong results from Popeyes were unable to prevent a disappointing sales number from parent company Restaurant Brands International.

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Restaurant Brands said third-quarter sales rose 6 percent year-over-year to $1.46 billion, missing the $1.47 billion that analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting. Sales were hurt by a 1.4 percent year over year drop in sales at Tim Hortons. The Canadian coffee chain makes up about 60 percent of all sales.

Net income was $351 million, or 75 cents per share, which was in-line with estimates.

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Shares of Restaurant Brands were up 25 percent this year.