Aug 07, 2012 02:57 PM EDT

Popeyes Chicken Moving To Suburbia

Chicken emporium, Popeyes is making big plans to generate more consumers by bringing their business to the "burbs".

"We've really reached the hearts and minds of a much broader customer base," said Cheryl Bacheleder, former KFC executive now chief executive officer of AFC.

Bachelder plans to double the number of U.S. Popeyes stores to 3,200. She admits that Popeyes concentration is on the urban market, but will be opening restaurants in the suburbs across America to cater to white diners, implanting the venture is going to require new menus and ad campaigns.

Figures produced by Bloomberg state that Popeyes will generate sales growth of about 13 percent this year. U.S fast-food restaurant sales will grow 1.9 percent overall this year to $170 billion, researcher IBISWorld Inc. said in a report last month.

Popeyes increased its same-store sales by 8.1 percent while KFC raised a mere 1 percent.

In 2008, Bachelder and her team rebranded the chain, ditching the Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits name for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and replacing the cartoonish red, yellow and blue logo with an orange "P" set in a ring adorned with a pair of matching fleur de lis.

Last year, Popeyes introduced a healthier menu, Louisiana Leaux, with naked chicken wraps and a BBQ chicken po boy sandwich. Still, the chain continues to sell the products that made it famous: bone-in fried chicken, chicken tenders and shrimp.

With U.S. economic growth weak and consumer confidence in July at the lowest level this year, Bachelder is keeping the food affordable, selling combos for $3.99 and $4.99. KFC, meanwhile, is advertising a $19.99 family meal.

The biggest threat for the company is if Bachelder or other leaders were to leave, said Sam Yake, an analyst at BGB Securities Inc. in McLean, Virginia. "Losing their talented executives would be by far the biggest risk," he said.

Bachelder, who reads one self-improvement or business book a week and started a library at company headquarters, is working on what she calls developing servant leaders to manage Popeyes when she's gone.

"That's where I've shifted a ton of my energy," said Bachelder, who last month met with 14 vice presidents to discuss their careers. "I want them to have everything in place to continue the success."

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