The Spirit of Competition

The already competitive sandwich business has become a game of chicken. At least that’s how it appears as the food media stack the Popeye’s chicken sandwich against Chick-fil-a’s. Beyond the recent McDonald’s announcement, there aren’t really any other chains trying to compete, at least not vocally, and it could be argued that Chick-fil-a didn’t exactly jump in to play.

Still, there’s an underlying feeling that the sides are lining up. Our office has admittedly had our share of Chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches (and tenders, and nuggets, and frozen lemonades, and waffle fries…). We’ve also had our share of Popeye’s over the years. So the introduction of the Popeye’s version of a chicken sandwich, replete with its own take on the seasoning and sauce, caught our attention.

We quartered our selections so everyone who wanted a taste could get one. That’s when the comments flew.

“I like the spice.”

“I don’t like the spice.”

“I like it better than Chick-fil-a.”

“I don’t think the chicken is as good as Chick-fil-a’s.”

Chick-fil-a is keeping quiet on this issue, and reaping the benefit of the discussion—anyone else wondering how many people are ordering side-by-side sandwiches simply for the fun of comparison? Popeye’s came out of its PR nightmare from running out of chicken, and they are making their mark with those who like the spice and what appears to be a higher quality chicken product. Chick-fil-a fans generally can’t be moved, regardless of competition.

The real winner is the consumer, who now has the benefit of competition helping to keep prices low, promotions high, and quality at a higher point than we’ve expected of fast food in the past.

There’s a saying that “competitors push you to achieve more.” And, when it comes right down to it, the decision isn’t between two chicken sandwiches. It continues to be more about what is close, what are they offering me, and what appeals to me when I’m deciding where to go for lunch. The restaurants that can capture the audience with those goals in mind, wins…and so do their customers.