DETROIT – How does fast-food chain Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, best known for its chicken, run out of chicken sandwiches? 

It’s simple: Turn to social media and tweet about one of your new sandwich offerings. 

And then, once the competition gets wind of it, they (as in Chick-fil-A) tweet about their own sandwich being better. Next thing you know, people are wondering what all the hype is about and are scrambling for Popeye’s new chicken sandwich. 

Two metro Detroit Popeye’s managers said it was social media that fueled the current fried chicken sandwich craze.

‘Good but so gone’ 

At the Popeye’s on Warren and Conner on Detroit’s east side, a sheet of paper was posted on the door with a message in big gold letters: “So good but so gone. Sorry we are out the Chicken Sandwich.” 

Ariyona Roberson, shift manager, said they had the sandwich. 

“Then someone tweeted it out,” she said. 

Once that happened, she said, they began to run out of the sandwiches. 

“It was last week Monday when we started to get busy,” Roberson said. “We ran out and had nothing on Tuesday.” 

Roberson said they got it back on the menu the following day but ran out of the sandwiches by 8 p.m. 

Daniel Harper, manager at the Popeye’s on Woodward in Highland Park, had a similar experience. 

“Social media blew it up and we ran out,” Harper said. 

Plain or spicy Why is it so special? 

While we can’t attest to the taste, Popeye’s managers say there is a difference in the how the sandwich is made compared with many competitors. 

First, you can get the chicken sandwich plain or spicy. Roberson said the spicy one is what everyone wants. It’s made with seasoned flour and spicy mayo. 

Harper said one big difference with this sandwich is the chicken breast comes in fresh. 

“There’s also special breading and a special seasoned batter,” he said. “It’s separate from the other batter.” 

“It’s a whole different batter and flour that makes it special,” Roberson said. 

The chicken breast filet, Roberson said, is floured, then battered and then floured again. 

Once the chicken is fried, it’s served on a buttered brioche bun with mayo and pickles. 

Free advertising 

Advertising and marketing industry sources say it was big win for Popeye’s. 

All that initial social media buzz added up to the equivalent of $20 million-$23 million in free advertising, according to Apex Marketing, based in St. Clair, Mich. That figure may have now grown to $65 million, said Apex’s president Eric Smallwood.

Adding to the brand value are all the news stories (such as this one) about the craze. 

“In addition to the product selling out and taking on a life of its own, it continued the momentum,” Smallwood said.

For now, Popeye’s official tweet told customers they are sold out nationwide.

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