Popeyes Bachelder Lifts Franchisee Profits

ATLANTA — Cheryl Bachelder, chief executive officer of AFC Enterprises Inc (NYSE: AFCE), holding company for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, speaks to Blue MauMau about the art of leading.

 A big believer in measuring, Bachelder actually monitors the bottom line of Popeyes franchises — 2,044 restaurants altogether, 40 of which are company-owned. That’s because she believes the key to a franchisor’s success is focusing on individually lifting the profits of franchised establishments.

Under her leadership, Popeyes says customer ratings have improved by over 20 percentage points in just the past year. In last month’s earnings report, Bachelder declared, “According to independent data, our 2011 domestic same-store sales outpaced the chicken QSR category by 430 basis points.” Actually, the chain has outpaced the QSR sector in same-store sales growth for three of the last five quarters. In a time of squeezed profits because of creeping commodity costs, Popeyes restaurant margins have become better by over 200 basis points in three years.

 “2011 was the third year in a row that we have delivered increased, absolute profit dollars to our franchisees,” declares Bachelder. How many franchisors can say that?

 Darren Tristano, executive vice president of researcher Technomic Inc. observes that there has been a shuffle in the fried chicken marketplace. Chick-fil-A, Popeyes and Bojangle’s have gained market share while Church’s and KFC have declined. “As KFC keeps its growth aimed at international markets and specifically China, other fried chicken brands have an opportunity to grow and grab share in this mature U.S. QSR chicken segment,” says Tristano. “Popeyes has improved its image through rebranding, broadening its menu and differentiating through flavor profiles and brand positioning. Their success in growing sales and units during our difficult economic climate over the past five years is a testament to their management team’s efforts and their strategy.”

Bachelder knows these companies well. She cut her management and leadership teeth with consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble and later Gillette. She joined Domino’s Pizza in 1995 as vice president of marketing and product development. From 2000 to 2003, she served as president and chief concept officer of KFC, a restaurant division of Yum! Brands, Inc.

Her peers think highly of the CEO of Popeyes. Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle says of Bachelder: “Cheryl hired me into Domino’s and taught me a great deal about the business.” Doyle, who was recently honored as CEO of the year for 2011 by CNBC’s Herb Greenberg and Brian Sullivan, adds of his mentor: “What has made her highly successful is her focus on building great consensus with her franchisees whenever possible, and building that through a fact-based approach to the business. It’s not at all surprising to see the level of success she is having with the Popeyes brand.” 

 

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