Cars backed up for hours during the lunch rush at Texarkana's Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The hype surrounding Monday's release of Popeyes' entry into the chicken sandwich wars locally has driven lines into the streets with customers seeking to get a bite.
"I'm trying to compare and contrast to Chick-fil-A, and see what the deal is," said Lakenya Trotter, one of the customers standing in line.
She is not alone. The chicken sandwich wars have been going on at least a week. An internet phenomenon, fanatical commentariats filled social media with comments about the "better chicken sandwich." So when Popeyes joined the feathered fray in Texarkana, the lines were drawn in autos and customers standing, waiting their turn.
"I'm just trying to see what the hoorah is about," said Darius Williams. "My brother is the big chicken sandwich aficionado and I'm trying to see if he knows something here."
As the day wore on, the line of cars spilling into State Line never seemed to cease. As of 4:30 Monday afternoon, the lines and enthusiastic Popeyes fans wanting to get their hands on this sandwich did not let up. Inside, a full lobby full of hungry customers still bore witness to this phenomenon.
"We sold 1,000 sandwiches today," said manager Brittany Eaglebarger. "We are trying to get resupplied for (Tuesday)."
And it was not just at the Popeyes on State Line, the only Popeyes in Texarkana. The chicken sandwich rush at Popeyes was seen nationwide.
"Folks were calling a week ahead of time, every day, to see if we had it in," Eaglebarger said. "This weekend, we saw a burst in sales, even though we weren't even serving the sandwich yet. Lots of people were calling corporate to complain that the sandwich wasn't available yet."
Eagleberger pointed out the three-person team of food preparers in the back of the Popeyes kitchen, intently at their work.
"They've been going since 11 a.m. and they haven't let up," she said. "Same pace all day."
Eagleberger credits the quality of Popeyes food for driving this.
"Much of our food is made fresh here," she said. "That is why this sandwich tastes so good and word is getting around."
It seems that the release of the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich, and the anticipation of this, was the trigger of this social media clash. In the week prior to its release, from chat sites all over the internet to major media including CNN, Forbes, CNBC and more had weighed in on this latest cultural kerfluffle. The Associated Press took the tack that in a culturally divided nation, this is just one more battle line. Data company Thinkum, according to Yahoo! Finance, says that one clue to note is Twitter and followers.
Popeyes started out with 138,000 followers as of last Thursday afternoon, but that number rose by 25,000 in just one day.
Chick-fil-A also added followers, though not as many. But it is important to note that their followers on Twitter number about 1 million.