Popeyes is known around the country for serving up some of the best Louisiana-inspired creations around.
With recipes as spiced and crispy as theirs, it’s no surprise they’re a hit within the Black community. Find out more about the Popeyes founders and their history by reading on; we discuss and whether or not Popeyes is black-owned.
Although not confirmed, there have always been nasty rumors about the origins of fried chicken. Knowing that it began in the southern states, some people argue that enslaved blacks were the first ones to craft such meals. With dozens of entrepreneurs from black origins using their skills in the fried chicken chops, it gives room to speculate.
Contrary to the origin of fried chicken, Popeye’s beginnings are much clearer and with less controversy.
Popeyes is one of the few restaurants selling fried chicken fast-food style, and they constantly modify their chicken recipes to make their food even more flavorful.
Going back to 1972, Alvin Copeland, a white businessman, began commercially selling some of the best fried chicken at “Chicken on the Run” in the southern U.S. His growing popularity motivated him to rebrand as Popeyes, and he committed to selling Cajun-style chicken instead.
Four years later, he opened his first franchise in Louisiana. The franchise was not an immediate success, but its increasing fame led Copeland’s company to open 500 stores by 1985. This gave the franchise a fighting chance against its #1 competitor, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
By 1991 the franchise had gone international and had bases even in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In 2008, Popeyes made a grand reemergence back into pop culture by launching the BonafideⓇ brand positioning. This allowed the company to solidify its Louisiana-fast service and original recipes. They also hired the beloved spokesperson Annie around the same time to help advertise their feisty new attitude.
Since then, the company has opened over 3400 locations worldwide and has crafted some of the most unique fried chicken recipes in town.
Who Owns Popeyes?
Popeye’s is not a strictly black-owned business, but it most certainly has black owners. It’s owned by the holding company Restaurant Brands International which is based in Brazil. A vast majority of the company is owned by 3G international and its shares are held by millions of people across the globe. A lot of people share it, some of them black or African American.
Its stocks are accessible around the globe, so its owners reach from the U.S to Hong Kong. With that being said, Popeyes stocks can be owned by investors of any race.
Although the company was originally founded in the United States, Popeyes is no longer an American company. The entire company was acquired by the Brazilian investment firm 3G international in 2012 and has been based there ever since.
Before selling his company to the Brazilian team, Copeland was able to land a deal with Church’s chicken. Church’s is another fast-food-style fried chicken shop that had been acquired by Popeyes owners in 1989. The deal wasn’t successful and landed Copeland enterprises in millions of dollars worth of debt. So why would they make such a purchase?
We have an idea according to the way Copeland ran his company and invested in black dollars.
For starters, Copeland was commonly known around town as a rebel. He sold food catering to black interests at a time when integration wasn’t popular. Every year black people would drive to his neighborhood to gaze at his Christmas lights despite the neighborhood’s complaints. So Copeland already had a good reputation with the black community, but how could he take it further?
Church’s was another chicken restaurant that could potentially dismiss competition. Copeland’s team had been known for mongering to black audiences by making their chicken recipes spicier, so buying Church’s seemed like a tactical move to improve their recipe– unfortunately, that didn’t work.
After failing to capture black dollars with the Church’s purchase, Copeland enterprises ended up filing for bankruptcy and selling the chain.
Copeland, who now only owned Popeyes, decided he no longer wanted to own the chicken franchise, but he didn’t pull away completely. He sold the company to the investment firm for 142 million dollars. The investment firm paid Copeland a yearly royalty for the use of their spices and recipes, but eventually bought the rights to everything in 2014.
Popeyes and the Black Community
Fast food restaurants were known as being segregated in the past, so black consumers felt a sense of normality once fast food joints started catering to their interests. For once, black people were included in the discourse.
Some say the reason for popeye’s popularity is because it’s one of the many restaurants offering a good blend of spices in their recipes, paired with down-home sides like red beans and rice and mashed potatoes. Before popeyes people were used to choosing between french fries and nachos. But there’s a reason Popeyes is a hit within black communities specifically.
Popeyes usually resides in communities where food deserts are all too common. With Popeyes being one of the few fast food options available, its workers, who are predominantly minorities, are forced to deliver back-breaking customer service to keep up with the demand.
We’ve found several stories online reflecting this worker’s mistreatment. Many of it has gone to Twitter as a meme of tired Popeyes workers.
Popeyes has also received backlash from the black community for marketing their products solely to black people while being simultaneously owned by a non-black company. Of course, popeyes is just one of many marketing tools used to cater to a majority of people while not being managed by their target audience.
A lot of natural hair companies are quietly owned by non-black investors that may surprise you including:
- Shea moisture
- African Gold
- Doo Gro
The chicken sandwich was perhaps one of the biggest eye-openers on how Popeyes aggressively markets itself to African Americans. The sandwich combined the taste of their original chicken recipe with a warm brioche bun.
The company gained a lot of black dollars from marketing this sandwich, but it resulted in major backlash. With popeyes residing in mostly food deserts, its customers and residents eat it often. This has led to an increase in health disparities within the black community, including Type 2 diabetes.
From its beginnings with Copeland, it’s clear black interests were always considered when coming up with recipes– even if it’s just a marketing tactic.
Today the company has remained true to that notion and continues to use the original spices and recipes to improve its products.
Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
Popeyes released a legendary chicken sandwich in 2019. The sandwich rivaled the long-time favorite Original Chicken Sandwich from Chick Fil A and other worthy competitors. The sandwich’s introduction caused a surge in business and the company made over 1.8 million dollars in sales a day.
However, the chicken sandwich caused more issues in the Black community than the owners may have realized.
An incident in Gainesville, Florida reported a worker falling in a pool of grease in an attempt to keep up with the new chicken sandwiches increasing demand. This may not be a direct result of residing in predominantly black neighborhoods, but it’s inevitable when customers are faced with such limited food options. And this isn’t the only story.
The chicken sandwich’s popularity also caused Popeyes locations to face major repercussions from the number of people ordering this sandwich.
For the first time in forever, black communities were getting visits from suburban residents who had ventured out of their familiar territory to try the new sandwich.
The lines would get so crowded at some locations that they’d bleed into traffic and law enforcement would be called to crowd control. Not to mention the carloads of “hangry” customers just waiting to feast. This caused many conflicts that Popeyes employees were not prepared to handle.
Today, Popeyes continues to cater to black interests while capturing black dollars.
In 1993, they began renovating their restaurants to look more modern and Louisiana-style. The new restaurant-style saw instant success as customers began remembering their one favorite fast-food-chicken-palace.
Popeyes owners saw the increase in customers returning to their stores around 2008 and began putting out tons of products every year to keep us on our toes.
They’ve released several new products to date including the
- Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Box
- Wicked Chicken
- Cane Sweeeet Iced Tea
- Rip N Chick’n & Dip N Chick’n
- Cajun Surf N Turf
- Chicken Waffle Tenders
- Beer Can Chicken
- Red Stick Chicken
Final Thoughts, Is Popeyes Black Owned?
So, is Popeyes black owned? No, Popeye’s is not black-owned. But this isn’t to say Popeyes hasn’t always been involved in the black community or has black input.
Popeyes is popular with the black community because they’re one of the only fast-food restaurants catering specifically to what black people are used to: homemade soul food.