While Colonel Sanders has pulled out all the stops to gain notoriety in the fried-chicken field—from gimmicky double-downs, to the swagger jacking of regional specialties like Nashville Hot Chicken—its rival chain, Popeyes, seems to succeed more by doing less. Just ask fine-dining chefs like David Chang, who cites it as inspiration for his own creative projects, or Wylie Dufresnse, who supplied its Louisiana-style golden bird to guests at his wedding reception. Compared to other national chains, Popeyes is an unusual exception—a low-brow, cult-favorite food with a high-brow endorsement.
The rise of arguably the greatest fast-food fried chicken was powered by another greasy staple: doughnuts. As owner of a doughnut franchise, Al Copeland got the idea to build a business around golden bird after noticing the wild success of a nearby KFC. In 1972, Copeland opened Popeyes prototype Chicken on the Run. By 1985, after introducing biscuits and other Creole specialties thanks to partnerships with local NOLA chefs, Popeyes had opened its 500th location.
As the company eventually renamed itself "Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen," it made sure to honor the state's legacy of culinary specialties by teaming up with and incorporating products from local companies Zatarain's and Tabasco. For chefs especially, that kind of integrity is supremely appealing in an era where franchises always seem to be grasping for a new audience. “Some of these companies are just so utterly greedy," said Hugh Acheson. "They go after market share that they’re not good at…McDonald’s has a new menu item every week, they’re just throwing crap at a wall hoping something sticks and their shareholders’ value is showing that.”
Even if you think KFC is better (and, let's face it, it’s not; Popeyes took on KFC in 2010 for a national taste test where it came out on top), Popeyes' history is a fascinating ride of name changes and feuds with vampire novelists. From the royalty treatment given to Beyoncé, to the surprising musician behind its jingle, here are 10 facts you may not know or remember about Popeyes.