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Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen opens 17th store at former El Zipperle location

After three years of abandonment, the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Teniente César González has a renewed purpose with the inauguration of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s 17th restaurant in Puerto Rico.

The 3,000 square-foot
restaurant known for its Cajun-style cooking, is generating a mix of 50 full-
and part-time jobs, and entailed an investment of $3.5 million, including the half-acre
it sits on, owner, John Brodersen, president of Brodersen Management
Enterprises, told this media outlet during an interview on Monday.

“One of the reasons why we
decided to purchase the 352 Roosevelt Ave location was precisely because we
wanted to give it a new life and renewed purpose, after almost three years of
neglect,” Brodersen said.

John Brodersen, president of Brodersen Management Enterprises. (Credit: Diego A. Cantor)

“We understand its iconic
history as El Zipperle and we have invested $3.5 million, including land,
construction and equipment, to ensure that this new store meets our high
standards and continue to be a place to make new family memories, with a new
kitchen style but the same commitment,” said Brodersen, whose company owns the
local franchise, as well as 62 Popeyes restaurants, including the local 17
stores, in other six markets — Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and
Indiana, as well as 13 Wendy’s in Florida.

The restaurant is one of three
that will open this year, he said, confirming plans for future locations at
Plaza Las Américas — a $500,000, 2,200 square-foot restaurant where KFC used to
be on the first level that will open in August — and in Fajardo, where the
franchisee will invest $1.4 million in a 3,300 square-foot restaurant slated to
open in December.

The Popeyes franchise arrived
on the island in 2006, with the opening of the first location in Bayamón, said Brodersen.
Since then, the company has steadily grown its local footprint — creating a
total of 850 jobs and an investment of $33 million so far — en-route to having
at least 50 restaurants islandwide.

The plans call for opening three
stores a year, as long as the franchise can keep up with training management
from within the employee ranks, he said.

“We train from within and
promote from within,” said Brodersen, who began as a cook for Popeyes in the
1980’s. He built his first Popeyes at 28, in Milwaukee in 1990. “Training is
our number one thing. I was a training manager 25 years ago and I strongly
believe in it. Every time I nearly went out of business it was because of
management,” he said.

The organization that has been
created in Puerto Rico has been recognized by Popeyes on a corporate level,
which asked local personnel to train staff at stores opening in other
countries, namely Panama, Peru, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Chile, Guyana and Vietnam,
he said.

“Popeyes noticed that this was
the best training franchise in the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brodersen continues
to bet on Puerto Rico, based on the local acceptance of the franchise that buys
its ingredients from local providers — chicken from To-Ricos, flour from
Molinos de Puerto Rico, bread from Pan Pepín, and produce from AgroProduce.

A Popeyes employee makes the chain’s Cajun-style chicken.

“At first, when I built the
first restaurant in Puerto Rico, I didn’t know if people would come. It was
hard to compete with big chains down here, where the marketing budget makes up
for quality. Since we couldn’t out-market them, we out-serviced them. We offer
clean and fast service, and a good product,” he said.

He also believes Puerto Rico is a market of opportunity and growth, despite economic forecasts and misconceptions.

“Our sales, which reflect ongoing growth of 15 percent vs. 2018, are proof that investing in Puerto Rico is not only smart but also essential. We have the best team, the most loyal customers and the recipe for success,” he said.

This store joins another 16 located in Carolina (two stores), Ponce, Mayagüez (University Plaza and in front of Mayagüez Mall), Caguas (two stores), Santa Isabel, Trujillo Alto, Dorado, Hatillo, Santurce, Levittown, Cupey and Bayamón (Rexville and in front of Plaza del Sol.)

Popeyes distinguishes itself with a unique “New Orleans” style menu that features spicy chicken, chicken tenders, fried shrimp and other seafood, as well as red beans and rice and other regional items. 

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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