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Chick-fil-A vs. Popeyes: 8 Major Differences

The chicken chains are facing off once again.

Crispy, juicy, and savory, fried chicken is one of the most quintessential comfort foods. Whether eaten on its own or served between two sandwich buns, the crunchy breaded chicken has a dominating presence in the fast-food world. Just look at Chick-fil-A and Popeyes.

In 2019, Popeyes introduced its crispy chicken sandwich, sparking a rivalry with Chick-fil-A that became known as the "chicken sandwich wars." Since then, other chains like McDonald's and Wendy's entered the fast-food battle, launching their own versions of the popular menu item.

Today, Chick-fil-A stands as the top chicken chain in the U.S., with Popeyes dethroning KFC from the number two spot in 2023 after a 10-year reign. Although Popeyes' U.S. market share decreased from 15% to 11.9% in 2023, the chain's performance was still good enough to leapfrog KFC. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A's market share increased from 38.3% to 45.5% last year.

Regardless of the numbers, it would be an understatement to say Chick-fil-A and Popeyes have loyal customer followings. However, if you're debating which chain to visit when your fast-food chicken craving strikes, there are several elements to consider. Here are eight major differences between the two chains.

Store footprint

Popeyes grand opening display
rblfmr / Shutterstock

Chick-fil-A operates more than 3,000 restaurants across North America while Popeyes has over 2,700. Venture outside of the continent, and the chains' footprints look a bit different. Popeyes boasts more than 1,000 locations outside of the U.S., adding 13 international markets since 2021, according to QSR Magazine. Since 2023, the chain has opened restaurants in China, Romania, France, Poland, South Korea, Indonesia, and New Zealand, with more announced in other international markets.

Chick-fil-A's international presence only exists in Canada, which is currently home to 13 restaurant locations. Going forward, the fast-food chain plans to expand in Europe and Asia in 2025. That same year, Chick-fil-A will debut in the United Kingdom with the goal of opening five locally owned and operated restaurants in the first two years. Then, by 2030, the chain aims to open locations in additional international markets. "We also look forward to continuing our growth in Canada and Puerto Rico," Chick-fil-A notes on its website.

 Some Chick-fil-A Locations May Soon Be Open on Sunday—Here's Why


Chick-fil-A hours sign
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

If you're craving a chicken sandwich on Sunday, you're going to want to go to Popeyes. Chick-fil-A has been famously closed on this day of the week since opening its first restaurant in 1946. The founder, Truett Cathy, initially implemented this policy for religious reasons. Chick-fil-A's website reads, "Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest, enjoy time with their families and loved ones or and worship if they choose — a practice we uphold today."

Although hours can vary by location, the chain notes most Chick-fil-A restaurants operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with breakfast served from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Meanwhile, Popeyes appears to have more variation in its hours, which are not included in a statement on the chain's website like Chick-fil-A's.

Chicken options

Popeyes chicken
David Tran Photo / Shutterstock

Take a glance at both chains' menus and you'll find several of the same food offerings: chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, you get the gist. Despite these commonalities, each chicken hotspot does its food a little differently. For one, Popeyes' menu showcases Cajun flavors, which is no surprise since the chain is the Louisiana Kitchen. Popeyes also serves up whole pieces of fried chicken (like legs and thighs), as well as chicken wings, which are now available in five different flavors: Sweet 'N Spicy, Ghost Pepper, Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic Parmesan, and Signature Hot.

You won't find fried chicken legs or any other bone-in poultry on the menu at Chick-fil-A, however, just nuggets and breaded filets on bread. Chick-fil-A does offer one kind of chicken that its rival can't match—the non-fried kind. Its customers can opt for grilled chicken instead, which is available on a sandwich or in nugget form.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a single non-fried chicken item at Popeyes. Even the non-breaded blackened chicken is fried, according to the website.

 Popeyes vs. KFC: Which Has the Best Bone-In Fried Chicken?

Additional food options

Chick-fil-A waffle fries
Deutschlandreform / Shutterstock

Aside from its chicken offerings, Popeyes presents Cajun flavors in other menu items, too, such as its sides. A few options include Cajun Fries, Mashed Potatoes with Cajun Gravy, and Red Beans & Rice. At the same time, Chick-fil-A offers a slightly longer list of side dishes than Popeyes, serving waffle fries, salads, soups, and a Greek yogurt parfait, to name a few. Some menu options may differ based on your location.

Beverage options

chick-fil-a milkshake
Photo: Chick-fil-A / Facebook

Want to pair your chicken sandwich with a milkshake? Chick-fil-A is the spot for you. The chain currently offers a selection of milkshake flavors, including classics like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and cookies and cream, along with its seasonal peppermint option. Other Chick-fil-A-specific sips include frosted lemonade and frosted coffee.

Popeyes doesn't offer these frosty treats, with its beverage menu only including soft drinks and lemonade.

 8 Fast-Food Milkshakes That Are Made With Real Ice Cream

Kids meal options

Popeyes' 6-piece nuggets kids meal

When you're on the go with hungry children, a kids meal can be a lifesaver. At Chick-fil-A, kids get a choice of a five-count order of regular or grilled nuggets or a two-count order of Chick-n-Strips. All of these include a small side like Buddy Fruits Apple Sauce, mac and cheese, waffle fries, or a fruit cup, along with a drink and prize.

At Popeyes, younger customers have a few more options, with the chain offering a choice of chicken nuggets, a chicken tender, a chicken leg, or mac and cheese with a Minute Maid Apple Juice, GoGo squeeZ AppleSauce, and a toy.

Dipping sauce options

Chick-fil-A sauces
Photo: Marouanesitti / Shutterstock

A solid dipping sauce can take a meal from enjoyable to exceptional, and every fast-food chain has one (or a few) it does best. Take Chick-fil-A, for example. The chain's standout option is arguably the Chick-fil-A Sauce, which is even available in bottles at grocery stores. Chick-fil-A describes this signature sauce as having "notes of mustard and a smoky tang." Besides this fan-favorite option, the fast-food chain has several other sauces, such as Polynesian, Garden Herb Ranch, and Sweet & Spicy Sriracha.

At Popeyes, customers can also score multiple dipping sauces, including two types of ranch—blackened and buttermilk—and Mardi Gras Mustard, a sweetened traditional creole dipping sauce. Plus, the chain offers both tartar and cocktail sauce, which are likely intended to be paired with Popeyes' seafood offerings—something not currently available at Chick-fil-A.

 The 7 Best Fast-Food Dipping Sauces, According to Chefs

Rewards Programs

popeyes logo on phone
rafapress / Shutterstock

If you find yourself frequenting a fast-food spot, it could be worth joining the chain's rewards program. At Popeyes, rewards members earn 10 points for every dollar spent, which can then be redeemed for specific menu items. Rewards members can also unlock perks like Happy Hour Tuesday & Thursday, which lets customers score $2 sides from 5 to 9 p.m on these days of the week.

Chick-fil-a's program, "Chick-fil-A One," operates slightly differently. The chain's membership program is divided into four tiers: Member, Silver Member, Red Member, and Signature Member. Customers progress to new membership tiers as they spend money at the chain. This allows them to gain access to various perks. For example, Red and Signature members can unlock exclusive rewards specific to their membership tier and access backstage tours at the Chick-fil-A home office.

Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna
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