Popeyes Louisiana Chicken has landed in North Buffalo, and Western New York has welcomed it with open arms.
Customers swarmed the New Orleans-style fast-food restaurant at 2160 Elmwood Ave. on Tuesday, waiting for a taste of Southern-fried chicken and seafood in hourlong lines that snaked out onto the sidewalk, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the heyday of Krispy Kreme.
“I’ve been seeing their commercials and waiting for them to get here,” said Lynn Merrill of North Tonawanda. “There aren’t many fried chicken restaurants around here besides KFC.”
She said fried chicken sold prepared at grocery stores “just isn’t the same” and, now that her children are grown, it’s too much work to prepare just for herself and her husband.
Western New Yorkers celebrated the chain’s arrival on Facebook and Twitter, posting pictures of the filled-to-capacity restaurant and drive-thru lines snaking around the building and out the parking lot.
“The moment I’ve been waiting for. Popeyes is opening today,” tweeted @Rebecca_Decker.
Until now, the closest Popeyes restaurants have been on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ont., and in Rochester.
Police were called to Popeyes shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday to stop cars from entering the drive-thru line, where waits of up to three hours were reported on the restaurant’s first day of business. An altercation earlier in the day occurred when a car attempted to cut into the drive-through line, police said.
The Popeyes location on Elmwood is the first in Western New York for the popular franchise that specializes in fried chicken and seafood. At least two more locations are planned by franchise owner Lalmir Sultanzada in the coming years.
Despite having no locations in the Buffalo market, Popeyes has aired commercials here for several years that have whet local consumers’ appetites.
Construction on the site began in September. The owner of the local franchise, Lalmir Sultanzada, is based in New York City and has plans to expand to at least two more locations in the coming years.
Popeyes is second to KFC with more than 2,000 fast-food outlets in more than 40 states and 28 countries. All are franchised except for about 30 still owned by the company. The company was founded in Louisiana in 1972 but is now headquartered in Georgia.