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Entrepreneurship is one of the key factors of production and probably the single most important factor in that regard. The rationale behind this is the fact that the essence of the other factors of production trickles own to taking the initiative to start a business and taking all the necessary measures to ensure its eventual growth (Frederick et.al, p7). Needles to mention, most of the renowned companies were born out of the zeal and risk taking spirit of the founders. Some founders of renowned companies include Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon, Alvin Charles founder of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits fast food chain, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and The Boring Company and Sandy Lerner the co-founder of Cisco Systems among others. Essentially, the resilience of such entrepreneurs is not determined by the shortfalls they have had in the course of their entrepreneurial journeys but rather by the actions they take to recover from such shortfalls (Frederick et.al, p7). Of interest in this case is Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits fast food chain founded by Alvin Charles. This research will seek to assess Popeyes Chicken and particularly the steps taken by Charles in ensuring the growth of the business to the point is today. Moreover, the research will seek to address any other business that Charles was involved in besides the fast food sector and the future plans for Popeyes chicken.
Alvin Charles ‘Al’ Copeland background
Copeland was born in New Orleans Louisiana in a humble family that once lived in the St. Thomas public housing project. Unfortunately, Copeland did not enjoy the full perks of being raised by two parents seeing that their father left after the last of the three brothers was born. The financial situation for Copeland’s family worsened after this separation prompting him to quit high school to go and work at Schwegmann’s supermarket as a soda jerk at the age of sixteen. Later, he went to work for Tastee Donut which was partially owned by his brother, Gil (Martin, p2). It is imperative to say that this exposure to the restaurant business inspired Copeland to venture into it especially considering that at the age of eighteen he sold off his car to buy one of Tastee Donut locations from his brother. Essentially, this business arrangement is what is known as franchising. Through this experience, Copeland gained better understanding on what restaurant franchising is all about and thus went ahead pursue this line of business fully (Popeyes.com, p2).
Just to reiterate, Copeland did not complete high school owing to the various financial challenges that he, his mother and brothers were experiencing at the time. Nonetheless, after achieving success in the restaurant business, Copeland did not relent on using his wealth to benefit various education programs. One of the initiates he funded included the establishment of the Alvin C. Copeland Endowed Chair of Franchising at the Louisiana State University (Martin, p2). Through tis institution, Copeland provided funding for the Delgado Community College chef apprentice program and offered support to the National Food Service Institute. Notably, Copeland had nine children borne by his for wives. His eldest son was the CEO of Al Copeland investments and eventually became the chairman for the same in 2003 (Popeyes.com, p2). One of the key attributes that defined Copeland was his flamboyant lifestyle. By virtue of this lifestyle, he attracted both admirers and haters in New Orleans. Copeland died of cancer in 2008 at which point the restaurant brand was under the ownership of AFC Enterprises (Martin, p2).
Summary of Popeyes chicken & biscuits fast food chain
Poyepes food chain was founded in 1972 by Copeland in New Orleans. In 1976, he started franchising the restaurant opening the first franchise restaurant in Louisiana. Over the next 10 years, about 500 more franchised restaurants had been opened. By 1989 Popeyes was the third largest chicken chain which allowed it to buy out Church’s Chicken which was the second largest chicken chain at the time. Notably however, even after the merger, Al Copeland Enterprises continued to operate Church’s Chicken separately from Popeyes (Martin, p5). A merger essentially refers to a situation where two companies agree to join efforts in a bid to harness synergy and reduce competition. Notably, companies involved in mergers retain their identities but can choose to dissolve their initial names and come up with a common name for both of them. This explains why Al Copeland Enterprise continued to operate the two chains separately. By virtue of the merger, Al Copeland Enterprises had over 2,000 outlets in different locations.
It is important to note that while mergers are often meant to help the companies involved to improve their financial performance and competitive position, mergers can sometimes have adverse effects on the companies for various reasons. The merger between Popeyes and Church’s chain had such adverse effects. Instead of boosting the performance Popeyes, the merger derailed its performance instead. As such, efforts were made to close of the low performing outlets and sell of more franchises. Unfortunately, these operational adjustments were not enough to avert the financial challenges that were adversely affecting the chains performance. By 1990, outstanding debts attached to Al Copeland Enterprises were estimated at $391 million. The outstanding debts increased to $400 million by 1991 prompting Copeland to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to protect the company. Notably, the company’s creditors were worried of its financial position, prompting them to petition for an involuntary bankruptcy but the petition was dismissed. In 1992 however, a plan submitted by the creditors was approved by the bankruptcy court. Essentially, this plan entailed the creation of Americas Favorite Chicken Company Inc. (AFC) by Copeland’s creditors. This new company became the new owner of Popeye and Church. Despite this loss, Copeland retained rights of some of Popeyes recipes and products.
How the manger determined the course of the company and personal opinion
Popeye chicken has undergone a few rebranding processes since it was founded leading up to the business name and model that it is known by today. Essentially, Copeland started off his venture in restaurant business dealing n doughnuts. However, he shifted from doughnuts to chicken once KFC started to open outlets serving chicken in New Orleans. Moreover, the initial name for this new venture was ‘chicken on the Run’. However, this was changed to ‘Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken’ after the recipe offered under the former name was considered to be bland for the local’s taste. The recipe offered under this new name had more heat than the previous making more attractive to the locals. In the early ‘80’s, Popeye introduced a slogan that has resonated with its customers for years, ‘Love that Chicken’ (Popeyes.com, p2). In my opinion, this slogan was quite strategic and well thought ought more so considering it fit excellently with what Popeye was trying to achieve; competitiveness and widespread brand recognition. In 1983, Popeye introduced buttermilk biscuits in its menu which is now considered to be the company’s signature product. Notably, all of these were quite strategic moves made by Copeland to propel Popeye to a competitive position amidst competition from the likes of KFC and Kentucky.
Probably one of the worst decision made by Copeland in setting the course of Popeye was merging with Church. In my opinion, this move was driven more by the quest to prove superiority as opposed to strategic action. The rationale behind is based on the fact that Copeland admitted that the takeover had lasted a long time and had been overly competitive. Moreover, Copeland ended up purchasing Church’s shares for $9.50 each as opposed to the $8 Popeye had offered initially (Popeyes.com, p1). Considering this possible initial motivation in getting into the merger, it is possible that the merger failed since there were no sound strategic plans laid down on how the two chains would harness the synergy between them. The result of this merger was the acquisition of Popeye by AFC since Popeye ran into bankruptcy shortly after the merger. Nonetheless, Copeland made a sound strategic decision when he licensed the use of Popeye recipes to AFC for $3.1 million annually. The licensing agreement lasted between 1992 to 2014. However, AFC purchased the recipes from Copeland’s family for a lump sum of $43 million after the expiration of the license agreement (Sayre, p1).
Future plans for Popeye
Despite the fact that Popeyes is now under new management, the recipe has not changed and the original plan to make Popeye the best and most preferred fast food restaurant remains. Considering this, Popeye is looking to venture further in emerging markets and increase its presence in the countries it has established itself already. For instance, the company is looking to venture into the South African market. however, the company is taking a rather conservative approach in the sense that it is making attempts to draw customers through brands that have already established in South Africa such as Chicken Licken and KFC (Benny, p1). Moreover, the company has been facing stiff competition from burger sellers such as Burger King, but Popeye intends to counter this by expanding the footprint of its Atlanta based chicken chain. In working towards this, the company’s move will be founded on three main pillars. These pillars are capitalizing on the company’s key differentiator from the competitors, developing passionate teams to execute the company’s plan and delivering excellence at all Popeyes restaurants. Notably, Popeyes CFO Will Matt acknowledged that the company intends to spend about $2 million which will be expended on the deployment of more operational team members and the development of a single platform that will be uniform for all Popeyes restaurants (Sayre, p3). The role of the operational teams will essentially be conducting regularly visits to the restaurants and conducting quality training for the personnel in the restaurant to foster excellence in the restaurants.
Early last year, Popeye was acquired by Restaurants Brands International for $1.8 billion, a move which could facilitate an acceleration of the expansion of the restaurant brand (Galarza, p3). Notably, this comes about four decades since Copeland, the founder opened the first restaurant in a New Orleans suburb. Currently, Popeye has over 2600 outlets globally and intends to expand these to 4000 (Benny, p4). It is imperative to state that the success that Popeyes continues to experience cannot be separated from the efforts put in by its late founder Al Copeland. Notably, Cheryl Bachelder acknowledged that the company’s success reflects the amazing brand created and entrusted to her and her team by Copeland and the remarkable partnership that the company enjoys from its various franchise owners. Essentially, Restaurants Brand International acquired Popeye from AFC which changed their name in 2014 to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (Popeyes.com, p1). It is important to note that Copeland focused on a key element which specialization. What this means is that he focused on the restaurant business alone allowing him to create the remarkable brand that has now gained global recognition. In other words, his business ventures revolved around the restaurant business and more so the expansion of the Popeyes brand.
Entrepreneurship is based and built on the acceptance to bear the risk associated with the venture one embarks on while in pursuit of the potential returns form said venture. The actions taken by Copeland since founding Popeyes depict his resilience to make the company the best fast food restaurant chain despite the hurdles encountered along the way. Some of the actions taken by Copeland for the company did more harm than good, the most conspicuous of such actions being the merger with Church restaurant chain. However, Copeland went ahead to try salvaging the company by applying for chapter 11 elven bankruptcy in a bid to keep the company afloat. Considering how successful Popeye has become so far, it is quite clear that entrepreneurship is a worthwhile undertaking. Nonetheless, it is important to note that such success comes through unprecedented zeal and the inherent belief that the venture being pursued will eventually become successful.
Benny, John. "Burger King and Tim Hortons Owner to Buy Popeyes for $1.8 Billion." U.S. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2018.
Frederick, Howard H., Donald F. Kuratko, and Allan O'Connor. Entrepreneurship: Theory/Process/Practice with Student Resource Access for 12 Months. Cengage AU, 2015.
Galarza, Daniela. "How Popeyes Turned Spicy Chicken into A $1.8 Billion Payday." Eater. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2018.
Martin, Douglas. "Al Copeland, A Restaurateur Known for Spice and Speed, Dies at 64." Nytimes.com. N.p., 2008. Web. 8 May 2018.
Popeyes.com. "Home | Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen." Popeyes.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 8 May 2018.
Sayre, Katherine. "Popeyes Buys Recipes from Founder Al Copeland's Family for $43 Million." NOLA.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 8 May 2018.
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