Our Shining Light Company this month is Popeyes, the second-largest operator in the fast food chicken restaurant group. The company has an interesting beginning and an even more interesting founder. Popeyes Louisiana Chicken, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLKI) was first opened in 1972 by Al Copeland in Arabi, Louisiana as Chicken on the Run, selling traditional mild fried chicken with the slogan, “So fast you get your chicken before you get your change.” Business was slow and the restaurant failed. Copeland, who never finished high school, was a classic entrepreneur. Despite the disappointment, he never gave up.
The chicken team realized that New Orleanians preferred a spicier alternative so he retreated to his kitchen to rework his recipe. Mr. Copeland changed the name to Popeyes (he said he was too poor to afford an apostrophe) and by the end of the 1980’s, Popeyes had grown to be the third biggest fried chicken chain in the United States. However, after borrowing heavily to buy his #2 competitor Church’s Chicken, Copeland soon sought bankruptcy protection. The court approved a plan that resulted in the creation of America’s Favorite Chicken Company, Inc. (AFC) to serve as the new parent company for Popeyes and Church’s. AFC sold Church’s and retained Popeyes.
Still Popeyes continued to struggle. The name change to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was part of a larger brand-identity overhaul that began when new CEO Cheryl Bachelder was hired to rescue the company in 2007. Cheryl is known for her sharp strategic thinking, franchisee-focused approach, exceptional financial performance and developing outstanding leaders and teams. She established a Road Map for Results, a strategic framework that led to market share gains on eight points, improved guest ratings and increased restaurant margins. At the end of 2015, Popeyes system-wide revenues were $3.1 billion. These revenues are generated by over 2,539 restaurants operated by 360 franchisees and more than 60,000 restaurant employees in the United States, three territories and 27 foreign countries.
Ms. Bachelder has created a culture based on the Popeyes Purpose: To inspire servant leaders to achieve superior results. In 2015, she published a book about the Popeyes turnaround Dare to Serve –How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. In 2012, she was recognized as Leader of the Year by the Women’s Foodservice Forum. Cheryl is known for reinvigorating great brands and inspiring leaders to reach their full potential. The Company’s strategic plan focuses on the five pillars which management believes are proven strategies for growing a successful restaurant chain: Create a culture of servant leaders, Build a distinctive brand, Run great restaurants, Grow restaurant profits, and Accelerate quality restaurants.
Popeyes supports ProStart, a career-building program for high school students who are interested in culinary arts and foodservice management. Click here to learn more about this program.
Diversity and inclusion are woven into the culture at Popeyes. Creativity and innovation are encouraged allowing the company to deliver results to franchisees, guests and shareholders. The company also ensures the ethical and humane treatment of chickens supplied to their restaurants by only using suppliers that meet or exceed industry guidelines.
Founder Al Copeland, had a fervor for living life to the fullest and was an inspiration to many. A huge part of his efforts were dedicated to charity and to the improvement of his beloved city and state. For his many contributions to civic and charitable organizations, he was named Humanitarian of the Year and received the Americanism Award of the American Legion in 1993, and the same year the Popeyes Lifetime Achievement Award. His secret Santa program went on for a number of years providing gifts for 1,000 needy children that Santa Claus delivered after dark on Christmas Eve. Copeland had one request, “The elf must have a camera, to take two photographs. One for the family and one for me.” After losing his life to Merkel Cell Carcinoma, his children established The Al Copeland Foundation to carry on their Dad’s mission to cure cancer.
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen is a company that capitalizes on its rich heritage, the strengths of its franchise restaurant system, and by serving food the world craves to an expanding global market. Run by a CEO who champions the importance of servant leadership and the responsibility of taking great care of employees and franchisees, Popeyes exemplifies what it means to be a Shining Light Company!
DISCLOSURE: Shining Light Companies are exemplary companies who live out the Golden Rule in their business practices, demonstrate strong servant leadership and create compelling value through the products and services they offer. This is intended for general information purposes concerning only the values, corporate culture and business practices of the companies being spotlighted. It DOES NOT incorporate any analysis of the companies’ investment merit based on intrinsic value, fundamental analysis, etc. This must not be construed as investment advice or a buy/sell recommendation. These companies may or may not be included in our LightPoint Portfolios at any given time.