A Struggling Popeyes Franchisee In the South Just Declared Bankruptcy
Food prices in the United States are finally starting to come down, but restaurant operators are still feeling the sharp sting of inflation and a decline in customer traffic. This is especially true for a few franchisees under Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of major food brands like Popeyes, Burger King, and Tim Horton's.
Since the start of 2023, two major Burger King franchisees, Meridian Restaurants Unlimited and TOMS King Holdings, filed for bankruptcy due to declines in revenue and traffic. And this week, Popeyes franchisee Premier Cajun Kings became the latest operator under the Restaurant Brands International umbrella to declare bankruptcy.
Premier Cajun Kings currently operates 19 stores in the South, but the company has struggled due to poorly-performing stores, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the untimely passing of its founder in May 2022. Manraj "Patrick" Sidhu was not only the sole member of the company, but also the sole manager.
"This tragic loss, coupled with various macroeconomic factors, has caused tremendous uncertainty and disruption within the business," court documents from the bankruptcy filing stated.
Sidhu founded Premier Cajun Kings in 2018, starting out with six Popeyes stores in and around Birmingham, Ala. Sidhu expanded his lineup by adding 24 additional stores in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee between 2018 and 2019. While operating those 30 restaurants, the company brought in more than $30 million in annual sales in 2020 and 2021 and employed nearly 500 people.
But the company's financial situation has deteriorated since then. On top of Sidhu's untimely passing and the pandemic pressures, the franchisee struggled because of inflation, elevated borrowing rates, and "an increasingly limited qualified labor force," the bankruptcy filing said.
Facing increasing losses and low performance, Premier Cajun Kings closed 10 stores in Alabama and Tennessee in an attempt to prevent additional losses and stabilize the business. A landlord also evicted an 11th location.
Unfortunately, these measures did not end up being enough to fix the franchisee's overarching problems, leading to its recent bankruptcy declaration.
Luckily for customers around the remaining Popeyes locations operated by Premier Cajun Kings, they may not have to say farewell to their local restaurants just yet, or at all. The business expects to continue operating the locations during the bankruptcy court proceedings. Premier Cajun Kings and franchisor Popeyes have also agreed to begin a sales process and plan to have the future buyer sign onto a new franchise agreement.
While the future for Premier Cajun Kings' Popeyes restaurants remains murky for the time being, local fried chicken lovers can hope that the bankruptcy process gives a fresh start to the Southern stores. Restaurant Brands International was contacted for comment on this latest bankruptcy filing but did not immediately respond.
While some of Restaurant Brands International's franchisees are evidently struggling, the company overall seems to be in a healthy spot. Restaurant Brands International topped analyst expectations for revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022 and appointed a new CEO last month.