Popeyes Terminates Franchise Agreement With DC Restaurant Operator After Viral Rat Video

The delivery driver who filmed the video says he was suspended.

Photo by Andwell via iStock.

A Capitol Hill location of Popeyes was recently shut down following a viral TikTok video showing rats scurrying all over the kitchen. Now a spokesperson for the fried chicken chain says they’ve taken action to terminate the franchise agreement with the restaurant operator, who only runs that specific location. The Hill is Home blog posted a photo yesterday of someone taking down the Popeyes sign. Popeyes says the location is being closed indefinitely.

The saga all started when Ricardo Land, who delivers raw chicken to DC-area Popeyes, filmed himself entering the storefront at 409 8th St., SE. As he turns on the light to the kitchen, rats run up the wall into the ceiling and across the floor. He says he spots around 15 in total. “You still love that chicken from Popeyes?” he asks.

As the video started to go viral on social media, the DC health department visited the property, where they found a total of 17 violations. Although rat droppings were spotted outside near the grease bin, it wasn’t the rodents that ultimately got the restaurant shut down. Rather, the inspector found that raw chicken and other potentially hazardous foods were stored at improper temperatures.

“This single restaurant does not reflect our strong food safety and cleanliness standards across Popeyes,” Popeyes says in a statement.

Meanwhile, the viral rat video has now amassed 1.9 million views on TikTok. Land says he has since been suspended from his job “due to exposure of the Popeyes franchise due to a swarm of rats in the place.” He’s started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for rent, food, and other bills, and has so far raised more than $13,000 from more than 725 donors.

Popeyes says Land was not an employee of its company or the franchisee and “decisions regarding his suspension are handled by his employer.”

“We’re cooperating in the distributor’s investigation of the matter, and have been ensured by the vendor that their employee who posted the fundraising page has always been receiving his full pay,” Popeyes says in a statement.

This story has been updated with additional comment from Popeyes. 

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.