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The chicken burger that sold out in the US is coming to France

A first ‘Popeyes’ restaurant will open in Paris later this year with several hundred more branches to follow

Popeyes specialises in breaded, marinated fried chicken Pic: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Buffalo Grill and Courtepaille restaurant chains are testing the fast food market with the launch of a brand imported from the US – Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

Popeyes specialises in breaded, marinated fried chicken and hit the headlines in 2019 when it introduced a new ‘chicken sandwich’ burger.

It proved so popular that stocks planned to last for months were used up in two weeks.

Massive queues formed outside its US restaurants, and when the item was taken off the menu, the company was sued by a man who claimed mental distress when he discovered the burger was no longer available. 

Read more: What’s Your View?: A fair lunch out in France costs at least €13

The fund that owns Buffalo Grill and Courtepaille announced it is forming a new holding company called Napaqaro to oversee the mainly franchised new businesses.

Both restaurant chains have suffered during the pandemic and were joined by a new franchised delivery-only fast food business called Bun Meat Bun in March last year.

Specialising in burgers, it uses both Buffalo Grill kitchens and so-called ‘dark kitchens’ – highly efficient food production units without an attached restaurant or storefront. Orders are received and paid for online and delivered directly to the customer’s door.

CEO Jocelyn Olive said when the Napaqaro name was announced: “We need to make the most of what has been a very hard time for us and take the opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

“We are in a situation where there are new ways of consuming and the time has come to rewrite the codes of the market.

“The checked tablecloth, which is the emblem of French restaurants and popular eateries, will change with us. It will modernise and take on a new dimension, while remaining sincere and convivial.” 

Mr Olive told French media that the decision to buy into Popeyes was taken because there is too much competition in the traditional burger fast food market in France.

Popeyes, which will probably be the trade name in France instead of the full Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, is due to launch in the second half of the year in Paris, where the company plans to establish several ‘showroom’ restaurants, as well as setting up in some shopping centres.

Several hundred more branches are expected to open around the country in the next 10 years, at a rate of around 50 per year. 

Next year, it plans to open on the outskirts of provincial towns in stand-alone buildings and in drive-throughs.

Read more: Ice cream, biscuits, spices... why France is recalling 7,400 foods

Home delivery options are planned from the start, but the company has not yet finalised operational details.

Chickens will come from France, and the company says it will align prices with other fast food outlets.

Moving into fast food is a risk for the owners of Buffalo Grill and Courtepaille, which both built their success on the formulae of familiar sit-down restaurants. No doubt they can see how McDonald’s has transformed in France from a mainly takeaway model into more of a bistro, and think they can do a similar trick.

France is McDonald’s most profitable country outside the US, because customers’ average spend is larger – they often take dessert – and they come in bigger groups.

Related stories:

McDonald's to grade its burgers in France with health A-E Nutri-Score

McDonald’s France defends charging €1.75 for ‘filtered’ tap water

Carrefour France trials a ‘vegan butcher’ product range

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