Popeyes reported strong sales growth in 2018, but it needs to start expanding its footprint more quickly.
— Erika Adams
Restaurant Brands International (RBI) announced today that Alexandre Santoro, the president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen since March 2017, would be stepping down from his position. Felipe Athayde, a longtime RBI executive who has previously worked with the company’s two other brands, Burger King and Tim Hortons, will be filling Santoro’s old role as brand president of Popeyes in the Americas. The executive change is effective immediately.
Santoro will be moving to a new role helping to lead Popeyes international efforts through “supporting its international supply chain business and assisting with new country entries,” according to a regulatory filing announcing the executive change. He had previously held the position of brand president for Popeyes for the past two years, since the brand was bought by RBI in 2017 for $1.8 billion.
Popeyes Growth Strategy
RBI itself has gone through its own executive shakeup in recent months, replacing founding CEO Daniel Schwartz with Jose Cil, the president of Burger King. As Cil has settled into his new role, the top priorities for Popeyes have been simultaneously streamlining operational processes and jumpstarting restaurant growth for the chain.
“When we bought Popeyes, we had 40-plus different point-of-sale systems,” Cil told investors at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer & Retail Technology Conference on Wednesday. “We couldn’t really read data. We didn’t know how the business was working from a day-to-day standpoint. We couldn’t see product mix. We couldn’t see ticket-level transactions.”
By the end of the year, Popeyes’ operations will be pared down to two point-of-sale systems across the chain, alleviating some of the issues with effective data capturing.
When the technology transition is completed, it will be “a massive shift that gives us the backbone in the restaurants to be able to do great stuff on the consumer-facing side with the app, with delivery, with kiosks, with loyalty,” Cil said at the conference. “It will also give us the opportunity to do really important things in the back of house to be able to manage production management, labor and other things.”
Popeyes reported system-wide sales growth of 9 percent and comparable sales growth of 1.6 percent in 2018. Net restaurants grew by 7 percent throughout the year, up from 6 percent the year prior. RBI owned or franchised 3,102 Popeyes locations by the end of 2018, as compared to 4,846 Tim Hortons units and 17,796 Burger King units.