Popeyes to return to Korea

American fried chicken restaurant chain Popeyes is returning to the Korean market after pulling the plug on its business here in December 2020.

Its operator Restaurant Brands International (RBI) confirmed Monday it has signed an exclusive master franchise contract with its new partner NLC, a subsidiary of deep-sea fishery firm Silla. It will open its first store under NLC management by the end of this year.

"We are thrilled to introduce Popeyes' unique Louisiana-style chicken and various food items in Korea with NLC, a subsidiary of Silla," Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen President David Shear said. "We are building a partnership with NLC based on strong trust and we will look forward to our future journey together."

RBI thought hard about bringing Popeyes back to Seoul because it has already failed once here. Silla is said to have convinced RBI with its distinguished strategy for Popeyes in an already saturated fast food restaurant market.

NLC is confident about bringing local customers back to Popeyes with its representative Cajun chicken.

"Chicken is one of the most loved food categories in Korea and we are proud to have brought back Popeyes, a globally well-known brand. We also believe our aggressive expansion of the fried chicken restaurant chain can greatly contribute to the country's economy by creating new jobs," an NLC official said.

The Popeyes brand was first launched in New Orleans in 1972. It is one of the world's largest chicken restaurant franchises, operating over 3,400 branches in more than 25 countries. It has been competing with global fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King and KFC with its New Orleans-style food including spicy chicken, chicken tenders and fried shrimp.

In Korea, TS Food & System (TS F&S), an affiliate of TS Corporation, had been operating Popeyes with its master franchise contract signed in 1994 and opened nearly 200 restaurants here.

However, it fell behind other chicken burger chains such as Mom's Touch after poor business performance that had been afflicting them for a while, the contract with TS F&S was terminated as of the end of 2020.

The brand has since been seeking a new local partner to reenter the Korean market. Daewoo Development Company - Engineering & Construction was one of the candidates that RBI was in touch with.

Apart from Korea, Popeyes has successfully expanded its business to countries such as Spain, Switzerland, China, Brazil, Sri Lanka and the Philippines over the past few years.

Last year, it opened restaurants in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Romania and India.

By Kim Jae-heun
Restaurant Business