Why CFA will Continue to Win the Chicken War

Last week I reviewed the trendy sensation of Popeyes Chicken Sandwich (there is no apostrophe in the brand name).  I also did a survey of folks here in the Poultry Capital of the US as to which is their fave chicken sandwich.  The results were a landslide for Georgia’s own Chick-fil-A.

Now there could be several things impacting the strength of Chick-fil-A.  I would guess that most have not even tried the Popeyes offering.

  1. After all, it’s a heck of an effort to even get through the drive-thru.  How bad do you want it?
  2. Chick-Fil-A was founded in the state. I’m sure there is some ‘local’ impact
  3. CFA is the reigning champ. Like in politics, the incumbent has an built in advantage.

But there is also a very important part of loyalty, way beyond the physical product you purchase.

Value is the sum of product (the actual item) and how you feel about the brand-the emotional response.  But first let’s review the product itself.

Since I tried the spicy version of Popeyes I ordered the spicy Chick-fil-A sandwich.  I was surprised that the spice level is actually stronger in the CFA version.  Popeyes uses a spicy mayo, but CFA has the cayenne in the batter (like the Wendy’s version).  The combo is important because the drink comes in handy. The breast patty is smaller, so you get more of the bread flavor than Popeyes.

But Chick-fil-A has a not so secret weapon that adds immensely to the ‘value equation’.  Chick-fil-A has ingrained a strong emphasis on creating an outstanding Customer Experience.  The locations tend to staff more employees, the facility is (usually) cleaner and they have an intense focus on speed of service.  Example: It took over 20 minutes to get the Popeyes sandwich at 2pm.  At CFA, I pulled up to the double drive thru menu, ordered and got my sandwich within 7 minutes (also at 2pm).  And during peak times they add additional staff to stand outside to facilitate speed.

Let’s face it, at a 20 minute time for your meal, it’s not really Fast Food anymore.  That has always been a major factor in QSR ratings.  Once the initial buzz is over the lines should be quicker, but if demand were to linger, would Popeyes invest in things like dual order boards, increased staffing, etc. to improve this area?  It would take a sincere effort not only from HQ but more importantly in the Franchisees.  As of now, Chick-fil-A tends to also offer higher pay and benefits in general than Popeyes.

In short, the investment in facilities, staff and training creates a much better experience for customers of Chick-fil-A, thus boosting the Value and Satisfaction of the patron. 

In all business, you need to provide the best customer experience to win long term.  Your competition can always come with a short term promo that gives a sales pop, but to build a strong, vital brand, you must invest in providing the best overall customer experience. 

Finally, you should look at an outside source to review you current offering and present their findings and recommendations.  As the business owner you cannot overcome the “inside out” bias of your vantage point.  A new set of eyes can more clearly provide you the buying experience of the customer.

Oh, we also included KFC’s chicken sandwich in our survey.  They ended up with a vote total of zero, sorry Colonel.