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When A Chicken Sandwich Is Not Just A Chicken Sandwich


The fast-food chain Popeyes is in the middle of a social media storm - this after it introduced its first-ever fried chicken sandwich. When Popeyes bragged about the sandwich on Twitter, accounts for a lot of fast-food companies, from Chick-fil-A to Wendy's to Shake Shack, all started tweeting about their own sandwiches. And then all their fans joined in. It has been absurd. It's also been hilarious. And we have Sam Sanders here - he hosts the NPR show It's Been A Minute here at NPR West in LA - to try and make sense of this beef over chicken.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: (Laughter) Hi, David.

GREENE: Hi, Sam. Why are we talking about chicken sandwiches breaking the Internet?

SANDERS: Oh, my God. It's so much. So part of why the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich is such a big deal this week is that for years, a lot of fast-food fans have had problems actually enjoying Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwich, which is seen to be the best in the field. Chick-fil-A got in trouble a few years ago after its leadership opposed LGBTQ rights, and then their chief executive also made some derogatory statements about same-sex marriage.

In response to that, there were gay kiss-ins at Chick-fil-A. It was a big deal. But basically, for a lot of years, it was very hard for a lot of folks to enjoy a really good fast-food fried chicken sandwich without guilt. Enter this week - Popeyes.

GREENE: Popeyes.


GREENE: And so there's this big fight over chicken sandwiches. But it seems like in the real world, like, you can just still go buy whatever chicken sandwich you want. If you want to take a stand, don't buy it. Whatever. The fight is happening all online.

SANDERS: The fight is only online. So David, the great fried chicken sandwich war of 2019 - and yes, people are calling it that...

GREENE: Did you just call it that?

SANDERS: People are calling it that.

GREENE: People are calling it that. Great.

SANDERS: It's a real thing. It perhaps represents this moment where social media has hit peak brand Twitter. You know, for years, we've seen these big corporations online try to craft social media personas for their brands that feel very young and personal and hip.


SANDERS: And it's become quite annoying. You know, this week, after Popeyes launched their sandwich, a long list of social media accounts for all kinds of fast-food companies began to pick fights with other fast-food brands about their sandwiches. Chick-fil-A tweeted about how they invented the chicken sandwich. Wendy's stepped in the fight for no reason, it seems.

GREENE: Whataburger from your home state of Texas...

SANDERS: Whataburger got involved. And then the account on Twitter for Hot Pockets tweeted a picture of a chicken hot pocket and said, well, technically, this is a chicken sandwich, too.

GREENE: Is it?

SANDERS: It's not.

GREENE: I mean, it's - I love them, but...

SANDERS: It's not good. Stop that.

GREENE: OK. It is. We'll fight about that later.

SANDERS: Yes. Yes. But it was just absurd. And this just speaks to the nature of Internet in 2019. All of these fast-food social media accounts were basically a food version of a "Real Housewives" reunion show because they know the best way to get attention online is to pick a fight. Even President Trump knows that.

GREENE: Did you - have you tried this Popeyes sandwich? I mean, is it better than other...

SANDERS: Oh, David. I tried. I asked all my foodie friends how to do it. I waited in line at a Popeyes on La Brea in LA just a few hours ago. This is what happened.

GREENE: Like, in the middle of the night.


Do you know if they have the sandwich? They don't have it? They don't have the sandwich. Oh, my God. So what are you waiting for?

GREENE: They were out of the sandwich?

SANDERS: I waited for, like, half an hour just to realize they were out of the sandwich and everyone in line was just trying to get out of the line.


SANDERS: This is what I find most annoying about the Internet in 2019. It makes me fight about a thing that I shouldn't be fighting about. And then ultimately, I'm not satisfied. There is no sandwich, metaphorically, David.

GREENE: Get this man a chicken sandwich. Someone get this man a chicken sandwich. That's Sam Sanders. He hosts the NPR show It's Been A Minute here at NPR West. Sam, thanks.

SANDERS: No fried chicken sandwich can fill the hole in your heart, David.

GREENE: Oh, Sam.


CLIPSE: (Rapping) That new CL fly outside of Popeyes, eating chicken and fries. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.