Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen continues to be the driving force behind Restaurant Brands International's (QSR -1.43%) sales gains as the fried chicken joint saw U.S. comparable store sales soar nearly 20% higher in the third quarter.

Although Burger King and Tim Hortons saw improvements compared to the second quarter, it was Popeyes that allowed the restaurant operator to handily surpass analyst expectations.

Woman with a chicken sandwich

Image source: Getty Images.

Chicken changed everything

Restaurant Brands International offered preliminary quarter results Wednesday morning showing it expected revenue to come in between $1.32 billion and $1.34 billion for the period compared to Wall Street's forecasts of $1.15 billion. The results included $10 million of unfavorable currency exchange rates, which caused the restaurant operator's organic growth to decline between 7% and 9% year over year.

Yet it's clear Popeyes is still riding high on the strength of its chicken sandwich, which continues to draw in new customers.

Restaurant closures abroad, however, are still hampering Restaurant Brands' full recovery as Popeyes saw a 0.3% decline in comps in international markets for the quarter.

The situation is improving at Burger King, which saw a 3.2% drop in U.S. comps versus the 9.9% decline in the second quarter, but it still saw a greater than 10% drop internationally, for an overall decline of 7%. Even so, that was better than the 13% drop last quarter.

Tim Hortons remains a troubled chain. Comps were down almost 14% in Canada, 4% in the rest of the world, and 12.5% globally. While that's better than the 29% plunge last time out, it's still a big drop.

Restaurant Brands International said it expects to report adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of between $555 million and $565 million, including $5 million in negative currency effects.