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Restaurant Brands CEO: Popeyes’ chicken sandwich has had an unprecedented impact on business

The Popeyes chicken sandwich craze may be long gone, but the effects of the sandwich launch is still being felt at the cash register, according to the head of the restaurant chain’s parent company.

Jose Cil, the CEO of Restaurant Brands, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Monday that the chicken sandwich brought new repeat customers to Popeyes to try other menu items at the fast-food franchise. The sandwich, which was introduced in August with much fanfare in both the news and social media feeds, is now a “big part of our menu” and integral to the company’s international growth strategy.

“The chicken sandwich brought in the regular daily [fast-food customer] for lunch, the single user, and those folks are coming in and they’re not just having the chicken sandwich,” Cil said in a “Mad Money” interview. “They’re now experimenting and exploring the entire menu: desserts and side items and beverages, as well as bone-in chicken and the sandwich, and we’re seeing the entire business grow, and it’s been fun to watch.”

Cil made the comments after Restaurant Brands, which owns Popeyes, Burger King and Tim Hortons, released an update on the company’s progress from the coronavirus downturn. The company said it began testing the Popeyes chicken sandwich in Canada and is optimistic about those prospects. In the U.S., same-store sales growth was in the “very high 20s” last week, Restaurant Brands said in the announcement.

Popeyes previously reported U.S. same-store sales were up more than 40% in the third week of May. Most of the restaurants in the U.S. market are open for takeout and delivery, though most dining rooms remain closed, the company said.

“I’ve been in the business 20 years [and have] never seen anything like it,” Cil said, touting results of the popular chicken sandwich nearly a year removed from its launch.

“I’ve talked to a lot of folks in the industry that haven’t seen it either, so we’re excited,” he said. “We see it as an opportunity to continue to grow, to connect well with our guests, to expand the brand from a unit-count standpoint here in the U.S. and really create a tremendous opportunity for growth for the brand here in the U.S. and internationally.”

Shares of Restaurant Brands rose 5% to $55.25 in Monday’s session. The stock is down more than 13% year to date.

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