The first sign that our local Popeyes might be a little overwhelmed? Black block letters reading “NOW HIREING” on the marquee under the fast-food restaurant’s bright orange logo.
We were at the St. Petersburg location on Thursday around noon to try to get our hands on a Popeyes fried chicken sandwich. The Louisiana-born chain known for its fried chicken announced the new menu offering Aug. 12 with a tweet.
Soft, squishy bun, fried chicken breast, secret sauce, a pickle. Remind you of any other fast-food chicken sandwich? It reminded a lot of people on the internet of Chick-fil-A’s, and Chick-fil-A noticed too, tweeting praise for its signature sandwich in a not-very-subtle move.
Popeyes fired back. Mayhem ensued. Petty? Sure. Effective? Definitely. People got in political arguments online, bringing up the CEO of Chick-fil-A’s stance against marriage equality and the company’s contributions to certain political groups. The New Yorker even published an essay about this sandwich war.
Soon, Popeyes locations around the country began to run out of chicken sandwiches. Folks on social media were suddenly extolling the praises of Popeyes sandwiches, its extra crispy chicken and secret sauce the main sources of adoration.
We had to try one. So we took a trip to the one at 600 34th St. N in St. Petersburg. The parking lot was full, further jammed by a line of cars snaking around the parking lot in the drive-through line.
On the door, a sign printed on 8 ½- by 11-inch paper got right to the point: “Sorry for any inconvenience ... At this time we are currently out of chicken sandwiches until further notice.”
The sandwich starts at $3.99 and is available nationwide at the chain’s more than 3,000 locations. It’s a permanent offering.
We tried Popeyes in Tampa, Pinellas Park and Largo. One had a similar sign on the door. Others confirmed via phone that they were also sold out.
The Popeyes at 28014 Wesley Chapel Blvd. had sold out, but a clerk claimed they were getting more at 11 a.m. Friday.
At 8968 State Road 52 in Hudson, a woman answered with, “Thank you for calling Popeyes. We do not have the fried chicken sandwich yet."
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An employee at the St. Petersburg Popeyes said they sold out of the sandwiches four days after getting them. They don’t expect them to be available again until Sept. 2. It’s a bun shortage that is causing problems, he said, not a lack of chicken.
He also indicated that the store wasn’t able to keep up with the increased foot traffic caused by the sandwich’s debut. That’s why he put up the hiring sign.