Hunger and excitement mounted in equal measure as a booming American fried chicken chain opened its first restaurant in the North East today.
Excited first-timers lined up for hours at Gateshead’s Metrocentre to be among the first in the area to sample Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s distinctive Deep South tastes.
Some arrived as early as 2 a.m. to approach the start of the queue in the lower Yellow Mall in the center, while others brought camping chairs to relax while waiting for the opening at 11 a.m. .
fast food chain Popeyes’ fourth UK restaurant at the Metrocentre today Picture: DANIEL HORDON” alt=”The Northern Echo: Staff applaud as the ribbon is cut to mark the opening of US fast food chain Popeyes’ fourth UK restaurant at the Metrocentre today Picture: DANIEL HORDON” class=”editor-image”/>
An eight-piece band serenaded those queuing before business at the fast food chain’s fourth and largest UK restaurant.
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When the clock struck 11 a.m., there were cheers after a groundbreaking ceremony.
Mitch, a customer service worker, joined the queue at 6.45am today as one of the first 50 restaurant customers to receive a Popeyes-branded goody bag and a free chicken sandwich.
He told The Northern Echo, “I had never tasted Louisiana food before, but I got up at 4 a.m. and thought I was going to come downstairs.”
The Louisiana brand, launched in New Orleans in 1972, only reached the UK with the opening of a restaurant in Stratford, east London, last November.
It has already become the busiest Popeyes in the world, with delivery kitchens now operating elsewhere in London, while the Metrocentre branch is among six other restaurants to open across the rest of the country in the next stage of the rollout.
Chief operating officer Neil Williamson, born in Newcastle, said: “Counting the numbers in the queue, we had a bigger queue than for the first store opening in Stratford.
“My nervousness about no one comes anymore, but now it’s about making sure we serve everyone who comes.
“That people get up early to come see us is incredible and ‘thank you’ to the people of the North East who support us.
Read more: Popeyes Metrocentre: What to expect and full menu
Customers can expect the brand’s signature chicken sandwich and classic American cookies and gravy on the menu.
Popeyes is open from 10:30 a.m. every day except Sunday, when it starts frying at 11 a.m.
Closing time is 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.
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