As part of a series of articles profiling the finalists for the Rising Star Award at the Retailers’ Retailer Awards, sponsored by Red Bull, MCA hears why Popeyes CTO David Carey will be instrumental in leading Popeyes into the future

Popeyes UK chief technology officer David Carey was instrumental in launching an agile, digitally forward business in a new market.

As CEO Tom Crowley tells MCA, the famed Louisiana fried chicken brand – and its cult following – may have been around for decades, but its digital architecture was built entirely from scratch by Carey to prepare for the UK launch.

“David really built our digital platform from a blank piece of paper within six to nine months before we launched our first restaurant in November 2021,” Crowley says. “He started from the beginning to define our goals and strategy.

“It’s one of the best platforms in the UK, going across online ordering, kiosk architecture, kitchen management, and everything else.”

Carey has been with Popeyes since February 2021. He was formerly digital director for The Restaurant Group – where he was responsible for brands including Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s, and Chiquito, among others – and also worked in an international digital marketing role for Papa Johns in the early days of his career.

He was recently promoted to international CTO for Restaurant Brand International’s 250-strong Burger King business in Scandinavia and the Popeyes business in the UAE. Crowley believes part of what sets Carey apart is his ability to seamlessly navigate different markets.

“In Scandinavia, it’s a different way of operating and working, while the UAE is also very different to the UK despite similarities,” Crowley says. “David has the agility to go in and inspire and influence people in different countries and demonstrate why they should change their operating systems.

“It’s not just demonstrating and rolling out the system – he’s also been able to deliver. It’s not easy for any system to handle thousands of transactions per week, but I’ve never seen such a frictionless platform.”

Alongside helping to cement Popeyes’ digital platform in the UK, Carey has also been able to lead a more mature business “with its own challenges” in Scandinavia, according to Crowley. He further led the integration of the systems used by both Popeyes UK and the UAE.

“He did all of that in about 18 months.”

Alongside building a digitally led business, Carey also the ability to oversee day-to-day activities from a performance marketing and sales and transaction growth perspective. In Crowley’s eyes, he’s an all-rounder who can apply himself to parts of the business aside from tech and IT.

When it comes to looking forward, he’s also keen to keep an eye on constant improvement and innovation.

“David’s working on how to effectively move people more and more towards online ordering,” Crowley says. “Kiosks, over time, are not the answer, and neither is making consumers download an app.

“David deploys progressive thinking around digital ordering and how we can sync our digital initiatives with the kind of brand we want to be.”