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Popeye's chicken sandwich: Popeye's workers are exhausted and overwhelmed



The line swirled around tables inside the restaurant, crowded with seated customers trying to eat sandwiches. Yes, the sandwich.

The Popeyes restaurant on 14th Street in Washington, DC, was so packed late Tuesday afternoon that it was impossible to see the cashiers or chefs behind the counter.

"At lunchtime, the line was outside the door," said an elderly woman who panicked outside the restaurant.

The craze over Popeye's new chicken sandwich – a fried chicken breast on pickle brioche and either spicy or plain mayo ̵

1; has been asking for memes, hashtags and endless selfies on social media since it was launched last week. And lines. Long lines. By Tuesday, the company said it had run out of sandwiches.

"I'm worn out," said a treasurer at DC Popeye's Wednesday. "It's all of us."

Chicken sandwich, which takes about 10 minutes to make, is just the last food to go viral. Back in October 2017, customers of McDonald's employees screamed as restaurants ran out of a limited offering of Szechuan sauce. A month later, hungry customers in Los Angeles waited up to an hour to get hold of a Cronut. Every fall, Starbucks baristas have to deal with the dreaded pumpkin spice drinks.

It's funny, right? Well, not for the staff. They can't take breaks. Foods run out. Customers wonder. And workers cope with it all while earning a living wage.

Wanda Lavender, a 38-year-old Popeyes boss, told her she is not getting paid enough to deal with all the customers who lined up for sandwiches this past week. She earns $ 10 an hour managing a Popeyes in Milwaukee. She said her legs are still numb from standing for 10 to 12 hours a day – she had to spend her birthday making chicken sandwich instead of taking off. One of her staff quit. An angry customer even threatened to shoot his employees.

"It was out of control," she said Wednesday before the shift. Restaurant Brands International, which owns the Popeyes chain, did not respond to a request for comment from the time of publication.

Below is an easily edited print of my conversation with Lavender.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Did you expect the sandwich to be so popular?

Wanda Lavender

I had no idea it was going to be that serious. They already had the sandwich in Chicago, and it wasn't that much. It's just a sandwich; there is nothing special about it. Bread, meat, jam and mayo.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How was it the first day the sandwich was sold?

Wanda Lavender

I thought it was going to be a normal day. I got my Red Bull and went to work. I sat watching someone make the sandwich so I could learn how to make it. Then there were lines and lines outside the door. It is almost like people got up to go in depth. Each day the lines just got longer; there was no break for anyone. I stood for 10 hours in a row.

My legs were numb. I got [leg cramps] in the middle of the night. It is exhausting work. My legs still haven't recovered.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What about the employees, how did they cope?

Wanda Lavender

There were all hands on deck. There was no stopping. Sometimes the staff got longer because it was so overwhelming to the person who worked next to them.

Not only was one person exhausted – everyone was exhausted. At first, we were like, "Come on, let's do this. We got this." But the lines were never erased. All you could do was bend her head and take a deep breath. A lady stopped; she couldn't do it. It became too much. It is overwhelming.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How difficult is it to make the sandwich?

Wanda Lavender

It takes about 10 minutes, thirty seconds to shake the bread, and I think seven minutes to cook the chicken. So mayo and jam. I made over 300 [sandwiches].

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How did the customers behave?

Wanda Lavender

We had many good customers, but now and then we had a It made me want to consider working there again. When we had the sandwich in stock it was fine. That's when we ran out of people getting angry.

People need to understand that we're going to go A guy screamed because we ran out of honey sauce. It was out of control some guy threatened to come back and shoot the store.

It just doesn't make sense. We break the butt and break our backs, and some threaten to shoot us because we ran out of something. It doesn't scare me, but imagine what it is like for an 18 year old boy working here? It scares the life out of them. It is a difficult pill to swallow. And the whole sandwich.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you feel that the company that owns Popeyes appreciates your hard work?

Wanda Lavender

The company made all this money – millions – of these sandwiches, but where's our cut? Where's our gratitude? Where's our thanks? We made 5,000 sandwiches in Wisconsin alone and sold every one of them.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you think sandwiches will be back on the menu?

Wanda Lavender

I don't know. It is still undetermined. It has to be handled differently. Maybe set a limit. I got one person to buy 15 sandwiches.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Is it worth it to do all this for $ 10 an hour?

Wanda Lavender

Well, I'm not doing this just for kicks. I have six children and I love every single one of them. If I work 10 hours a day, we're fine, but we're not financially stable. It should not be so.

I'm not lazy. I've done every job you can imagine. I was a loan manager, lead generator, research specialist, kindergarten teacher, but I never managed to make more than $ 10 an hour. Nobody in my family has been able to do that.

I can pay the rent, the energy bill and the mobile phone. That's it. There is no way to make sure the kids have everything they need, or even dress halfway. Sometimes I braid hair to make extra money.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

One more question. Have you tried the sandwich yet? How is it?

Wanda Lavender

It's just a sandwich. I just want to be honest, I feel it can use lettuce, tomato and some cheese. To each his own.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Is there anything else you want to say?

Wanda Lavender

To all these companies out there: Give us our blame. Make sure you take care of the families that care for you.


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