Sunday, November 24, 2019

I Waited Around for a Long Time for the @PopeyesChicken Chicken Sandwich so You Wouldn't Have to

I didn't really mean to wait around for a long time for the sandwich. It didn't seem like I was going to have to.

The drive-thru was waaaaay busy, so we went inside because that didn't look particularly busy at all.

There were several people standing to the side waiting on food they had already ordered, but only one  party ahead of us in line. After about ten minutes, a guy ambled up to the counter and took their order.

Then he stared down at the register for about a minute before suddenly realizing we were there to order too, and took ours.

Then we waited.

Since I was sitting around waiting (except for a short break outside to smoke a cigarette and chat up another waiting/smoking customer about some cool boots she was wearing), I watched.

One guy was working the drive-thru, and seemed to have one other person backing him up with occasional help stuffing food in sacks to hand out through the window.

Another guy seems to have been the main cook. He was back and forth quite a bit putting e.g. sandwich patties and stuff in a heat box (they didn't seem to be selling much fried chicken by the piece; the orders I heard, and the food I saw people eating, ran more to sandwiches and tenders).

A third guy was mopping up a spill on the floor when we came in, then he disappeared entirely. My guess is that he was in back washing dishes or some other non-cooking, non-customer-service job.

There were three other employees visible for the most part.

Two of them took turns staring off into space, occasionally taking an order (perhaps as many as five times between the time we arrived and the time we left) or  grabbing sacks off the surface behind them and calling out names of people to come up and grab the food they'd ordered.

The third was the one who occasionally helped the drive-thru guy. In between doing that she messed around with her phone, chatted with waiting customers she seemed to know, and once went to the back and came back with one dollar bills for the register at the request of one of the other two.

Once, the manager came out from the back, yelled "welcome to Popeye's," announced the weekend special (X pieces of chicken, Y sides, $Z), stood there smiling for a few minutes, then disappeared again.

After about 15 minutes three or four people in Popeye's shirts entered the store, went behind the counter, milled around like some kind of "be a crowd scene" thing in a theatrical production for a minute or two, then disappeared (where to, I don't know -- at the end of that event, the people I describe above were all still there and still doing what they were doing, and there weren't any more people visible doing that stuff).

Somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes after we ordered, the party ahead of us were called up to get their food, and ours came out a couple of minutes later.

My verdict on the chicken sandwich (I got the spicy variety):

Pretty damn good. Not worth waiting nearly an hour for, especially when there seemed to be no real reason for the wait. But I'd eat it again if I only had to spend a couple of minutes getting it.

My verdict on Popeye's:

Inconclusive, since there could well have been stuff going on I didn't know about, out of sight.

But it just didn't look to me like the long drive-thru line, or the demand for sandwiches, was to blame for the long wait.

For one thing, the drive-thru line was moving, and the one guy working entirely on drive-thru was clearly busting his ass. The drive-thru seemingly got big-time priority such that people who hadn't even been in the drive-thru line when others entered the store were driving away with their food tens of minutes before those inside customers got theirs.

For another, it's not like they don't know to expect lots of sandwich orders. They had piles of regular and spicy fried chicken sitting there waiting to be ordered, and I noticed precisely one order for it (my son got a drumstick in addition to his tender combo).

Granted, I've eaten at Popeye's many times and in many places over the years, including this one, and only once since the sandwich mania broke out, and I've never had this kind of experience before. My recollection is that I've had to wait for more than a minute or two precisely once when ordering inside, that that wait was about five minutes, and that one of the employees personally and almost apologetically brought our stuff out to our table instead of calling us up for it (that would have been in Wisconsin, not quite a year ago).

So I supposed the sandwich craze to wait time correlation COULD indicate causation.

But in the seven years I've lived in this city, I've had several unsatisfactory visits to this Popeye's. Every time (granted, that's only been two or three times) I've pulled up to the drive-thru and asked for the TV-advertised box special that made me think of the place (the one that comes to mind was "ghost pepper" chicken tenders), they've been "out of" it.

In St. Louis, we lived near two Popeye's stores for 12 years, ate at both at least occasionally, and I only remember one time they were ever "out of" anything (red beans and rice, and that was about 10 minutes before closing time). And I don't remember the wait between getting to order and getting the food ever being more than a few minutes, drive-thru or inside.

I won't be visiting this Popeye's again, at least while Sandwich Mania continues.

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