THE LONG lines snaking around Pasig’s Arcovia when Popeyes opened last week is solid proof of how much Filipinos wanted the Louisiana-style fried chicken.
One can hardly blame them: Popeyes in the Philippines closed about 10 years ago, and its return is perhaps akin to welcoming back an old friend.
The US-based but Canadian-owned chain (at least since 2017, after its acquisition by Restaurant Brands International) has about 3,000 locations around the world. The restaurant was brought here by the Kuya J restaurant chain, which is behind the giant, membership and volume supermarket Landers, among other restaurants.
The group’s sheer size is probably the reason why you shouldn’t join the crowds at Arcovia: Francis Reyes, CFO of the Kuya J Group, says that they plan to open more than 20 branches of Popeyes within Metro Manila in the remaining days of 2019, so you won’t have to wait too long in line if you just wait a few more weeks.
But again, who can blame you for wanting to line up now? The prices are low for an international brand: with items ranging from P97 for a chicken sandwich meal to P167 for a two-piece meal with chicken and rice.
The chicken is good; very good (but not good enough to dislodge Chickenjoy and KFC from this writer’s heart) with just the right amount of peppery seasoning. But then, neither of the two restaurants mentioned have Cajun rice (a Louisiana recipe with rice, sausages,meat, and spices), and for this alone, combined with the chicken, I would gladly join the lines again.
The biscuits are available in three flavors: the classic honey, and two new flavors exclusive to the Philippines — white chocolate and hazelnut. Mr. Reyes said that there is a chance that the two new flavors might be incorporated into the international menu, so he said, “If you ever find a chocolate biscuit in the US, you have to eat it with pride, because it started in the Philippines.”
For nitpickers, Mr. Reyes assured media guests during the opening last week that they had spent months perfecting the recipe, so that, “The experience of eating Popeyes chicken in ths US will be enjoyed by Filipinos in the Philippines.
Filipinos arguably already have a favorite fried chicken, (I’ll say it again; it just might be Jollibee’s Chickenjoy) so how and why, would a global giant even try? “Filipinos love their chicken. All of us would want to have the best-tasting chicken, regardless of wherever it may be, and Popeyes is here to give you a different flavor,” said Mr. Reyes.
But then, he points out a similarity in the culture between the Louisiana melting pot and the Philippines: “We’re a fan of big and bold flavors. We’re fans of parties and celebrations, just like in New Orleans.
“Filipinos love to be happy when they’re eating chicken.” — Joseph L. Garcia