The Story of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Jan 23, 2015 by

The Story of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

By Phin Upham

Al Copeland opened the first Popeyes, then called Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken, in Arai Louisiana. They started selling traditional mild-flavored chicken, but that didn’t appeal to the local tastes. As business slowed, they got the idea to spice things up. They created a hotter recipe intended to impress New Orleanians seeking something different.

By 1976, Copeland was ready to start franchising. And he was good at it too. He opened a total of five hundred Popeyes locations over the next ten years, and another 200 after that. Those numbers look good, but the company wasn’t doing so well financially. It was reporting $391 million in debt, and filed for bankruptcy formally. By 1992, the courts had set the POpeyes corporation on a plan to get back in the black.

The company was sold to America’s Favorite Chicken, the same company that owned Church’s Chicken. They went public in 2001 with an IPO valuation of $142 million. Church’s was sold to a capital group within three years, but the Popeyes company stayed with AFC. That is until the Popeyes company announced it had purchased the rights to its recipes back from AFC in 2014. This was important because it meant Popeyes could market its spices, batter and other products outside of its restaurants.

The Popeyes name comes from detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle from the French Connection, not the kids cartoon character. If you’re wondering why Popeyes doesn’t have an apostrophe, Copeland would tell you that he was too poor to afford one.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.

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