The Popeye’s Fried Chicken Sandwich


I discovered it in the “New Yorker.”

Every day I do my back exercises, takes about half an hour, and while I do them I struggle to read my iPhone, otherwise I’m bored, I don’t want to waste time.

And it’s at this time that I go through the round of my news apps. I’m especially hooked on the WaPo and the “London Times,” because I don’t get these in print. And the paper is better in print. Oh, there’s less news, and it’s late, but you find stories you missed, that round out your view of the world.

And to be honest, I’m checking the news apps all day long, I’m addicted, in a good way. It’s not FOMO, it’s just that I dig it, now you can feel like a participant, you’re always up to date, ready to play. Of course this leaves you as the information source for your friends, you end up a lecture series, which is not satisfying, but every once in a while there’s a subject I’ve got to broach.

Like the Popeyes chicken sandwich.

I’ve never eaten there. I guess I got turned off when Kentucky Fried Chicken went off the rails. When the skin came detached from the meat. You’ve got to know, once upon a time KFC was the new thing. My father would buy a bucket, along with that dynamite cole slaw, and take it to us at the beach after work. I can still taste it. KFC was a staple, there was always a bucket at the Labor Day picnic (along with ears of corn drenched in salt water and cooked over a charcoal grill).

Now when I moved to L.A., there was Pioneer Chicken, all over the place, and it was really bad. Some people still testify about the failed chain, but there are people who reminisce about Swanson’s TV Dinners too.

My local fast food chain of choice was the All American Burger. Ate tons of those. But then they went by the wayside and I got wary of all that fried food, fast food and…

Then I read an article about the Popeyes chicken sandwich.

Now for a while there, Jack In The Box had a killer chicken sandwich. And then there was Carl’s Jr.’s (why “Jr.”?, I always wondered that) barbequed chicken sandwich, which was actually a piece of chicken, but the former was fried and I lost my taste for the latter, and yes, I’ve had Gus’s, but to tell you the truth, I want to live, I’m watching my heart.

But now it’s taking everything in my power to not drive to Popeyes.

So if you’re a “New Yorker” person, a couple of years back they released a new app, “NYerToday,” that features specialized content each and every day.

Now the truth is the “New Yorker” has very little virality, it’s mostly an echo chamber. Oh, occasionally they break news, or deliver insight, a la the recent Al Franken article, that spreads, but that’s rare. I never hear anybody talking about the articles in NYerToday, and to tell you the truth, oftentimes they’re written from an intellectual spot high above the real world and are out of touch with the essence of life. But this article in NYerToday intrigued me, it was entitled:

“Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Here To Save America”

Now like a lot of great writing, the article starts off in left field, you don’t know how this anecdote is gonna fit in. But that gets you hooked, in a world where online writing is all about the facts, and it’s believed that no one reads past the first paragraph, if that.

And I’m wondering just how a sandwich from a low rent fast food joint could have that much impact.

But then the writer, Helen Rosner, starts to explain.

Raquelle Smith, a NYC food writer, is quoted as saying “That Popeyes sandwich had me in my feelings. That’s probably the most emotion I’ve shown all year. The chicken is perfectly fried! The breading isn’t falling off. You get crunch in every bite. (The bun is) ‘a buttery cushion,’ (the sauce) takes it over the top. Is it healthy? NO! But dammit don’t it taste good. It’s truly a gift from the heavens.”

Then Ms. Rosner herself testifies “The salt, the fat, the sharpness, the softness – together, they’re what flavor scientists might describe as ‘high amplitude,’ a combination so intense and so perfectly balanced, that they meld into one another to form a new, entirely coherent whole.”

Remind you of anything?

Jon Landau saying he’d seen the future of rock and roll, rocketing Bruce Springsteen into the public consciousness.

Yup, music criticism used to inspire. It made you buy records. It wasn’t snarky, it was enthusiastic. And it wasn’t dry analysis, the writer’s personality/enthusiasm came through, actually you got to know the writers themselves, they were not bland, replaceable personalities!

Then the article described a Twitter war, between Chick-fil-A and Popeyes. With the latter taking the high road and benefiting from it.

And we all hate Chick-fil-A, at least the “New Yorker” readers do, but everyone who’s had one, which does not include me, TESTIFIES!

But supposedly Popeyes’ was better. Could that really be true? I mean how good could a fried chicken sandwich be?

Pretty damn good.

But if you wanted one, you had to line up, they sold out, there was mania.

Oh yeah, right. This is just a humorous “New Yorker” article.

But I open the papers the following day and both the WSJ and NYT have articles, drier than the “New Yorker,”‘s but testifying to the same mania, and analyzing the business success and the social media impact and these articles would have had no sticking power if I hadn’t read the “New Yorker” article first, which was a story, with soul.

So I went from ignorant to a laughing outsider to becoming aware of the biggest fad in America right now overnight.

Last night I brought it up. I got blank stares in most cases, but then some who were in on it testified! The lines! Yet no one had actually eaten the sandwich.

So yes, there’s mania, yes, there’s virality, but at the heart of it seems to be a damn good sandwich.

Kinda like music, where we specialize in hype and the product is substandard, to the point where you no longer even have to check it out. Hell, you don’t want to waste an hour listening to crap, you’ll wait until there’s a consensus that you must tune in.

But there’s little mainstream consensus in music today. No product, no song, no record, that cuts across all lines and attracts all our attention.

And the more you read about the Popeyes chicken sandwich, it does not appear it’s just a publicity stunt. It was a new product with a little promotion that stuck. And grew because Popeyes’ competitors were anxious.

And they say Twitter is irrelevant.

Now with food, it’s not one and done, it’s not a movie, but what a record should be. Something you revisit again and again when you get the hankering for it.

But once again, now that’s food and not music.

We’re all on the outside until we’re suddenly made aware and brought to the inside. All the usual tricks no longer work. Billboards, TV ads, we’ve been trained to ignore them. But when something is news without promotion, when a story gains virality, all based on the underlying product, we cannot look away, it’s like a car wreck, we’re glued to the story.

America is glued to the Popeyes chicken sandwich.



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