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Charlotte’s first Popeyes proves a hit with customers

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/13/21/41/1tLEan.Em.138.JPG|316
    MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
    Traffic has been heavy at Popeye's on Wilkinson Boulevard. Joronda Fetterson, left, has just gotten off work there and says that at this time the traffic is less than it has since the restaurant opened this past Saturday. During the lunch hour, police have blocked the entrance just off Wilkinson to keep traffic from backing up.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/13/21/12/gNnOQ.Em.138.jpeg|227
    MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
    Traffic is heavy at Popeye's on Wilkinson Boulevard. Employee Joronda Fetterson of Charlotte, who just finished her early morning shift, says she enjoys her job better than other fast food restaurants where she has worked.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/13/21/12/10zHfS.Em.138.jpeg|233
    MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
    Traffic has been heavy at Popeye’s on Wilkinson Boulevard in west Charlotte. A customer walks to his car at a nearby shopping center parking lot after getting takeout at the restaurant.

The opening of Charlotte’s first Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant has produced enough business in its first week to clog a parking lot and require police traffic control along Wilkinson Boulevard.

“I am shocked at how busy they are,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Gregg Collins, commander of the Freedom Division with offices on Wilkinson Boulevard a few minutes from Popeyes. “Every time I drive by, cars are wrapped around the building.”

Popeyes, an Atlanta-based fast food chain with restaurants locally in Mooresville, Concord and Rock Hill, entered the Charlotte market when it opened an outlet at 7 a.m. last Saturday on Wilkinson Boulevard.

Employees and customers said opening day was marked by traffic backed up onto Wilkinson Boulevard and congestion in the parking lot of an adjacent shopping center.

“You wouldn’t have believed what it looked like,” said Antonio Jones, a Charlotte man who said he drove past Popeyes a short time after it opened. “People were everywhere.”

CMPD’s Collins said Popeyes management worked closely with police before the opening to plan traffic control. The restaurant has hired off-duty officers to help deal with heavy traffic.

“I have been impressed with their management team during the entire process of building and now the opening,” Collins said.

Business was still very brisk at 3 p.m. Friday, when the inside of the restaurant was wall-to-wall customers. About two dozen employees scrambled to keep up the orders. A manager said he was too busy to talk.

The opening puts Popeyes in the chicken market against Charlotte’s own Bojangles’. Popeyes officials did not respond to questions Friday about possible expansion plans in Charlotte.

“This is crazy,” customer Pam Jones of Charlotte said Friday afternoon. “The drive-thru line was so long that we walked in.”

Jamil Byers walked to his car with a bag of Popeyes food Friday afternoon and said he grew to appreciate the restaurant chain when he lived in Atlanta.

“It’s good,” Byers said. “But I still like Bojangles’ better.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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