Popeyes Employee Describes 'Working Like a Slave' to Serve Crowds Demanding Chicken Sandwiches

A chicken sandwich sits on a table at a Popeyes as guests wait in line, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Kyle, Texas.
Photo: Eric Gay (AP)

Workers at fast food chain Popeyes have been forced to work overtime, working shifts up to 11 hours to fill recent demand, according to five employees who spoke with Business Insider anonymously. The chain released a wildly popular chicken sandwich earlier this month, and then management allegedly failed to account for its workers needs during the rush.

“I was working like a slave in the back prepping the buns with pickles and the spicy mayo,” one worker, an 18-year-old in Orange County, California, told Business Insider. He said that he worked an 11-hour shift on Saturday, estimating that he made at least 600 sandwiches.

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Workers described long hours, often without breaks, and abusive customers.

“Everyone wanted to quit so bad because it was that bad,” he said. “We have never seen it get this insanely busy.”

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According to one manager at a Popeyes on the East Coast, the demand also meant that customers were abusive. “I had customers nearly fight some of my coworkers because they were told that we were not serving the sandwich because we had ran out,” she said.

A worker in California told Business Insider: “I had an instance where a customer was threatening to assault me when I was taking out trash. A customer sees me and shouts: ‘Do we have a problem or what! Why no sandwiches! You guys are the third Popeyes to say so!”

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“Popeyes restaurants experienced unprecedented volumes over the last couple of weeks. All restaurant employees have worked very hard. We are very grateful for all that they do for Popeyes guests,” Popeyes told Business Insider.

“My coworkers said that there’s been nights that they go home at 2 a.m. when closing is at 11,” said a worker at a West Coat Popeyes, a high school senior.

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In recent months, fast food workers across the country have spoken out about poor conditions, demanding higher wages and union representation. With Popeyes’ success this month, it has become glaringly clear to many workers that profits are not being shared fairly between management and workers.

Jose Cil, the CEO of parent company Restaurant Brands International, earns $800,000 in a year and has a “target bonus opportunity” of up to “300% of his annual salary,” according to an SEC filing from January.

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For some people, these conditions were the last straw, even though they may not have many other employment options. One worker in Newark, New Jersey, said that she quit last week during the rush, “in the middle of making two sandwiches.”

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