Why Popeyes' UK Customers Are So Confused By Its Biscuits

If the pioneers who brought Popeyes to the United Kingdom had listened to their focus group, they wouldn't have had this problem. But the chicken chain's British executives opted to go with tradition, rather than heed their fear of cultural confusion, per The New York Times. After all, a fast food restaurant with roots in the southern U.S. simply must offer biscuits on the side. But to Britons, a biscuit is a small, thin cookie dense and durable enough to stand a good dunk in hot tea, according to the blog published by Renshaw, a British maker of baking ingredients. In America, a biscuit is a soft, round, buttery, baked thing that will remind UK natives of their scones, per the Classic Cornish Hampers blog.

As far as the English are concerned, Popeyes must have gotten either the name or the recipe wrong with its biscuits. As Tom Crowley, the chief executive of Popeyes UK remembered it, those focus group participants said, "Why are you giving me a scone with chicken? I have no idea what you are doing." Referring to keeping the biscuits on the UK menu, Crowley admitted to The New York Times that "if we ran with the research, we probably wouldn't have done it, if I'm honest."

Popeyes kept biscuits on its UK menu despite the confusion

Popeyes first-ever UK customers, at a food court in a shopping mall in East London, experienced some menu confusion as a result of the chain's distinctively American biscuits, according to The New York Times. But it's not as if Britons had never seen American fast food fried chicken before. KFC has at least a dozen restaurants in the London area alone, according to that chain's UK website. But you won't even get a whiff of a biscuit on the British KFC menu — although, in an apparent nod to the American way, what in Britain are called "chips" get their American name "fries" on the KFC UK menu.

KFC may have figured the British wouldn't order a biscuit that wasn't a cookie and looked like a scone — and who would eat a scone with fried chicken anyway? But Popeyes just said, "Aw, what the heck." More accurately, Popeyes' chief executive said the fast food chain decided to stay true to its southern U.S. roots. "All that heritage plays well," Tom Crowley told The New York Times. "The U.K., in our view, actually appreciates that great fried chicken is going to come out of Southern U.S."