There’s not much to editorialize about when it comes to the Popeyes chicken sandwich. On this issue, we as a nation seem finally able to speak with one voice: We love it.
This is the sandwich the country needed as its institutions crumble, its government fails and the people seem more disparate and out of touch with each other than ever. It shows us that American innovation is as irrepressible as ever, that the status quo can still be disrupted, that there can and will be a better way.
This is a sandwich of freedom.
We downed a sack full in the office a couple weeks ago, on production day, and it was widely acknowledged that the Popeyes sandwich is far superior to the Chik-fil-A product, although admittedly none of us would eat their sandwich regardless because of their support of anti-LGBTQ+ religious groups.
The Popeyes sandwich is bigger overall, with a larger piece of chicken, fluffier brioche bun and thicker pickle slices. The spicy version makes the Chik-fil-A seem like a glass of milk.
But for decades, nobody could touch Chik-fil-A’s product, not even when it was the exact same thing — McDonalds ran a clone called the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich until 2015, and it never even made a dent.
But Popeyes took over in a single weekend, using a lot of the same tactics that were used to influence the 2016 election: clever social media posts, amplified and developed through sock-puppet accounts until enough people internalized the message to hit the tipping point.
Now, Chik-fil-A is trying some of the same medicine on its newest PR push: a declaration to cease financial contributions to those aforementioned problematic churches.
People have been boycotting Chik-fil-A since 2012, when its chief operating officer made a bunch of public comments opposing same-sex marriage in Arkansas. But the company had been donating millions of dollars a year to religious organizations hostile to the LGBTQ+ community going back to 2003.
Its first store in the United Kingdom, opened this year, closed after just six months. But in the US, the chain grew throughout the first two decades of the century.
And not only did Chik-fil-A never waver; they doubled down on it. “Guilty as charged,” Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy told a reporter who had asked about the company position against same-sex marriage. As such, Chik-fil-A became the official sandwich of the Republican Party, members of which sometimes tout their go-cups like badges. They believe it trolls the libs.
But this week, Chik-fil-A blinked.
And it wasn’t because of consumer boycotts. It’s because someone finally brought the heat.