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August 5, 2022

The History of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Popeyes didn’t grow into the number one chicken chain in the U.S. overnight; fans of our famous Louisiana-style chicken grew to Love That Chicken from Popeyes in the years following the launch of our brand in 1972.

Y’all, Popeyes has been feeding hungry guests our famous Louisiana-style chicken for a while now, and it’s been a long journey since the first Popeyes in New Orleans introduced locals with a mouth-watering menu of authentic Cajun and Creole-influenced southern cooking.

This is the story of how Popeyes grew from a single restaurant in the south to chicken chain loved across the world.

Humble beginnings

When entrepreneur Alvin C. Copeland Sr. opened the first Popeyes in the New Orleans suburb of Arabi back in 1972, he did it under a different name: Chicken on the Run. With a menu of traditional Southern-fried chicken, the restaurant struggled initially to attract customers or make its mark.

Copeland, however, was not deterred. Inspired by Cajun-cooking and his ambition to create fried chicken guests would love, he went back to the drawing board, creating a chicken recipe that gave guests a little kick of spice.

He reopened his restaurant as “Popeyes” — named for Gene Hackman’s hard-boiled police detective Popeye Doyle from the 1971 film The French Connection — and started serving the authentic New Orleans-style spicy chicken that is famous today.

Early Popeyes Food Spreads

Business heats up

The first Popeyes franchise restaurant opened in Louisiana in 1976 and started gaining a following for hometown inspired flavors. As business started to grow, Popeyes got fans singing about our chicken and introduced the famous “Love that Chicken” slogan and jingle in 1980, an iconic tune that is still spreading chicken-joy to this day.

But you can’t have a homegrown Louisiana meal without some sides, and Popeyes was about to serve up a classic. In 1983, Popeyes introduced buttermilk biscuits, and they quickly became almost as widely cherished as our chicken.

Popeyes goes global

Over the ensuing decades, Popeyes began to bring the famous flavors of New Orleans beyond all borders.

In 1984, Popeyes expanded to Toronto, Canada, marking our first international location. The next year, Popeyes opened its 500th restaurant, making it the No. 3 quick-service chicken chain based on units sold.

Popeyes was eventually bought by Restaurant Brands International in 2017, and our rapid growth and expansion has continued since. Popeyes has become one of the most beloved and successful quick-service restaurants in the world, with more than 3,800 restaurants globally

Popeyes continues to evolve

Even after Popeyes had earned the place as one of the world’s top quick-service restaurants, we didn’t stop evolving our menu.

Popeyes introduced a host of popular new culinary creations over the years, including the Wicked Chicken, Cane Sweeeet Iced Tea, Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Box, Rip'n Chick'n, Blackened Tenders, Chicken Waffle Tenders, Beer Can Chicken, and more.

And while our rich history has made the famous chicken we’re known for today, we are still crafting new delicious dishes our guests will love for years to come.

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