Shanghai, China – Fried chicken enthusiasts in China have reason to celebrate as Popeyes, the beloved fast-food chain, is set to make a grand return to the country. The new operator of Popeyes in China, Shanghai-based Tims China (THCH), has unveiled ambitious plans for a massive expansion, defying the prevailing economic challenges. The company aims to open a whopping 1,700 Popeyes stores across the nation over the next decade.
In a strategic move, at least 10 of these new outlets will grace the vibrant streets of Shanghai in the next quarter, with the first store having already opened its doors last Saturday. The announcement of this expansion sent ripples through the market, with shares of Tims China surging by 3.6% in New York.
Tims China, primarily known for operating Tim Hortons coffee shops in China, recently acquired the Popeyes franchise in the country. Yongchen Lu, CEO of Tims China, expressed excitement about this venture, stating, “We are thrilled to open our first Popeyes restaurant in China, a milestone in our longer-term strategy. Despite a challenging overall macroeconomic environment, food service retail sales have been a bright spot in China’s post-Covid recovery — one of the sectors that has rebounded strongly.”
To appeal to a younger demographic, Tims China plans to create modern storefronts adorned with jazz music and colorful art. Moreover, they intend to introduce signature items such as New Orleans-style spicy chicken and Cajun popcorn shrimp, tailored menus to cater to the preferences of Chinese consumers.
The localized menu boasts unique offerings that blend Cajun traditions with local Chinese tastes. Some of the exciting options include sweet chili chicken, golden cheese and chicken nuggets, and a Longjing tea-based pomelo milkshake, according to the statement released by Tims.
Tims China joins a growing list of Western fast-food giants expanding their presence in China. The company has already experienced success with Tim Hortons, opening 700 stores under that brand in the last four years.
In a similar vein, Subway, the American sandwich chain, announced its plans to add thousands of new sandwich shops in China, increasing its footprint in the country sevenfold over the next two decades.
Popeyes is owned by Restaurant Brands International (RBI), a food and beverage conglomerate that also operates Burger King and Tim Hortons. RBI had previously operated Popeyes in China under TFI Tab Food Investments but withdrew from the market in 2021 due to some disputes with its master franchisee. However, RBI rekindled its presence in China through a new partnership with private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group, the founder and top shareholder of Tims China.
Tims China further strengthened its position by acquiring PLKC International, which holds the exclusive rights to develop and sub-franchise Popeyes in mainland China and Macao. RBI and Tims continue to be partners in this venture, as stated in the company’s announcement.
RBI CEO Joshua Kobza had previously hinted at Popeyes’ return to China, mentioning, “We signed a new master franchise partnership a few months back, and we’re really excited to open some of our first restaurants again.”
To support the expansion, Tims China has earmarked $60 million to build out the Popeyes chain in China in the coming years.
Popeyes’ grand return to China through Tims China’s ambitious expansion plans is a testament to the enduring appeal of the brand and the promising growth potential in the Chinese market. With its unique offerings and a focus on capturing the hearts of younger consumers, Popeyes is set to make a significant impact on the country’s vibrant fast-food scene.