Chicken QSRs Across the Country

There’s a great game of chicken raging in the quick-serve restaurant market right now.  Over the last two months, QSRs serving primarily chicken have taken roughly eight percent of the entire QSR market across the nation, according to insights firm Sense360.  Sense360 compiles real-time data on QSR consumption from a panel of more than two-million smartphone users in the United States.  By examining its data, Sense360 has revealed an interesting and unique opportunity in the market for chicken QSRs.

chick-fil-a logo

Chick-fil-A leads the pack of chicken chains, carrying roughly 3.7 percent of the entire national QSR market, landing in the  7th national overall slot..  KFC follows, with 2.4 percent of the national QSR market, earning it 10th place overall.  Zaxby’s takes third and Popeyes fourth, with 0.86 and 0.79 percent of the national QSR market respectively, good enough for 22nd and 23rd place on the charts.  Looking carefully at these chicken restaurants across the country, an unusual trend emerges.

The Pulse of the Market

Below is a graph plotting daily QSR consumption over the last sixty days according to food category:

screenshot-2016-10-13-15-34-03QSR Category Daily Market Share

The “Chicken” category fluctuates significantly between as little as 6 and as much as 11 percent of the total QSR market.  The fluctuations are extremely regular, with one-week periods every time.  So what’s with the heartbeat?  This unique pulse-like pattern manifested by chicken QSRs has a story of its own.
Honing in on the chicken category more specifically, Chick-fil-A dominates, with an average of 39 percent of the national market.  KFC takes a little over 25 percent, while Zaxby’s and Popeyes have roughly 9 and 8 percent respectively.  Looking at the leader, the graph below plots Chick-fil-A’s daily market share over the last two months:

CFA Daily Chicken Market Share

Again with the pulse pattern, but here even more noticeable than for the chicken category as a whole.  The dips, as you may suspect, are Sundays, when every Chick-fil-A across the nation is closed.  (Chick-fil-A explains that it closes all restaurants on Sundays for largely religious reasons:

So what do Chick-fil-A’s competitors’ graphs look like?  Here is the same graph but for KFC:

KFC Daily Chicken Market Share

KFC’s pattern reveals an unsurprising inverse: while KFC averages only 25 percent of the chicken QSR market, on Sundays it takes as much as 40, stealing market share from its closed competitor.  The same is true for Zaxby’s, which averages only 9 percent but peaks at 15 percent on Sundays:

Zaxby's Daily Chicken Market Share

And also for Popeyes, which averages only 8 percent but peaks as high as 14 percent on Sundays:

Popeye's Daily Chicken Market Share

Popeyes reflects an especially interesting trend, showing an additional set of smaller peaks on Tuesdays.  These Tuesday spikes are likely the result of a promotion offered in California called Popeyes’ “Daily Deals,” which are cheapest on Tuesdays ( This is a prime example of how QSR chains can increase marketshare and revenue through promotional events.   Notice how in the graph below, which is limited to Popeyes’ daily market share within California, the Tuesday peaks are even higher, rivaling and even occasionally surpassing those on Sundays:

tuesday peaks

Indeed, over the last two months in California Tuesdays have bested Fridays for peak foot traffic at Popeyes, as demonstrated by the bar graph below:

Popeye's Visits By Day

Window of Opportunity

What do these unusual patterns mean for the chicken QSR industry?  It is clear that a unique window of opportunity exists for Chick-fil-A competitors on Sundays.  To be sure, KFC, Zaxby’s, and Popeyes are already stealing some of Chick-fil-A’s market share on Sundays.  But there is room for growth.  Sundays remain the lowest foot traffic day of the week for all three competitors.  For example, the graph below plots visits by day for KFC:

KFC Visits by Day of Week

As evidenced by California Popeyes’ “Daily Deals,” strategic marketing can be very effective in garnering increased foot traffic on targeted days.  Sundays reflect a unique time for KFC, Zaxby’s, and Popeyes to steal chicken-loving customers from the dominant Chick-fil-A.  These competitors would be wise to double down on their efforts to market Sunday specials in order to grab as large a share of Chic-fil-A’s customers as possible.

Sense360 is an insights firm with a panel of over 2 million anonymous consumers and data on more than 150 million consumer trips a month. By understanding the visits and journeys of millions of people in the real-world, we are able to provide restaurants and retailers with detailed competitive and consumer insights.