Divided Opinion: The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

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Divided Opinion: The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Kosmo Wojack and Emily Zimmerman

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Is the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich worth the hype?

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      Since its Hawai’i re-release on Nov. 17, the Popeyes chicken sandwich has ignited a wildfire. The restaurant has been filled to the brim with hungry customers waiting for their orders. The fast-food frenzy doesn’t stop there, with an endless drive-through line sprawling for more than 15 cars. Is this attention warranted? Could something as simple as a chicken sandwich be worth up to an hour wait in line? My answer is no, but yes. For logic’s sake, waiting more than 20 minutes for fast food is impractical and essentially defeats its purpose. However, the Popeyes chicken sandwich’s undeniable quality gives its consumer traffic reason to be.

     In August 2019, Popeyes released their chicken sandwich to the world and received uproarious approval. To say it struck a chord with customers would be an understatement, as their entire stock sold out within two weeks. More than two months later, on Oct. 28, the official Popeyes Twitter account announced the re-release of their beloved sandwich, garnering much attention and excitement from fans online, greatly contributing to its success upon release.

     Amidst recent criticism of the beloved fast-food chain and chicken joint competitor, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen stands as the lone challenger for the throne of fast food chicken king of America. The latter’s take on the American classic is a strong competitor, boasting a thicker, juicer serving of chicken compared to Chick-fil-A. However, in Hawai’i — a state living in the absence of the mighty Chick-fil-A — the comparisons are irrelevant. When pitted against Hawai’i fast food providers, there is no contest. While the McDonald’s McChicken is an undisputed classic, its small size and general lack of quality ingredients and flavor are especially emphasized when compared to its Popeyes cousin. Jack in the Box, Wendy’s and Burger King’s sandwiches — although their meat has a decent crunch, it feels cheap and lousy, especially after experiencing the authentic crispy goodness of Popeyes fried chicken.

     Now let’s observe the individual components of the sandwich that make it such a success. First, the start and end of all sandwiches — the bread. Its crispy brioche bun provides a delightful salty-sweet taste that gets the mouth watering. When taking a bite, the next thing you will likely experience is the satisfying crunch of Popeyes’ signature fried chicken. The fried batter contrasts the soft bun, adding a uniformed balance to the bite. After breaking past the exterior, the chicken inside is tender and juicy. The thick sliced pickles add a pungent but pleasant sour element into the mix. Add a small touch of mayonnaise that doesn’t overpower the chicken and you have the talk of the country. Balance is a recurring motif when describing the sandwich’s qualities; nothing overpowers the other flavors and each can be individually pointed out while simultaneously working together in harmony. This tranquility can best be put into words by pop-culture icon, Thanos. “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” Wise words that perfectly characterize the Popeyes chicken sandwich.

     While it may not be worth the long waits to some, it certainly is a quality sandwich, especially at a price point of only $6. Standing in line isn’t necessarily about the sandwich, it’s about the camarderie: being a part of the bizarre social event. People don’t need to take themselves too seriously — mass support of randomness is just plain fun. If you have the time, are hungry and with some friends, why not join in on this cultural phenomenon and sink your teeth into some of the best that fast food has to offer?

Against:

     Picture this: utter chaos. People fighting, arguing, screaming. Tensions are rising and the crowd becomes angrier. Shoving, pushing and yelling become more intense. The police have to intervene. Someone is killed. All for what, you may ask? The answer: a chicken sandwich.

     It is no secret that Popeyes has re-released their chicken sandwich. In fact, if you don’t live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about this sandwich. The sandwich came out in August of this year and as soon as it was released, chaos spread across the nation. People have been going to extreme lengths, such as waiting in line for hours upon end to get a hand on this “magical creation.”

      Drive-through lines have wrapped around and stretched out of the parking lot. The line inside is just as bad but instead of sitting in the comfort of your car, you’re forced to stand. Even customers who aren’t interested in ordering the sandwich are forced to stand in the long line. The disorganization is unsettling and you would think that having this sandwich out for months there would be more of a “game plan.” Yes, there was a major gap in production of the product because it sold out, but the sandwich has still been something the company could have discussed and had a plan of action to keep the chaos in the restaurant to a minimum. 

     Why everyone is so worked up over this sandwich, I will never know. A man cut in line at a Popeyes in Maryland and was stabbed to death when confronted. He literally died over a sandwich. Honestly, it’s not even close to being “to die for.” It is a piece of fried chicken between a bun with some mayonnaise and pickles. 

     I waited in line for over an hour — which I know is nothing compared to what others went through — to get my hands on this sandwich. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. It was lackluster, basic and plain. Shall I continue? All of this hype, all of this chaos for a sandwich.

     I’m not saying it’s a bad sandwich. It’s a perfectly fine sandwich. It just has nothing special about it. In fact, it is almost identical to the sandwich made by Chick-fil-A (Which is strange since Popeyes has been working on it for nearly two years. You would think they could come up with something more original). While in Hawai’i it’s understandable that people would go crazy for a chicken sandwich since we don’t have Chick-fil-A on island, it doesn’t explain the mayhem occuring on the mainland. 

     So, why did this sandwich get so much hype? It blew up on social media. It has racked up around $65 million in media value. I don’t understand why this was such a big deal. A company that is known for its fried chicken releases a fried chicken sandwich. This isn’t a groundbreaking idea. 

     There is so much else going on in the world that we should be focusing on instead of a sandwich. More than 37 million people in America alone are hungry. In Hawai’i, there are 161,270 people struggling with hunger.  Meanwhile, we’re out here, angry that we can’t get our hands on a sandwich.

     It is important to remember these less fortunate people, especially since the holiday season is upon us. Instead of getting caught up in the Popeyes’ fiasco, spend your hours volunteering. Take a step back from what you’re doing and think about what is truly important in the world.