This chicken chain says it's going after McDonald's and Burger King -- not KFC or Chick-fil-A

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As American and international appetites for chicken heat up, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is on a roll.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced plans to increase its global restaurant count from 2,500 to 4,000 in the next seven to ten years. This comes after the chain opened a record-setting 219 new restaurants in 2015.

However, as the chain expands in the US and abroad, CEO Cheryl Bachelder says that the company's biggest competitors are not KFC and Chick-fil-A, two other quickly-growing chicken chains.

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"A lot of people might think Popeyes' biggest competitor might be another chicken QSR chain, but actually our customers more often are in the large burger chains," Bachelder told Business Insider. "They've chosen — their favorite chicken is Popeyes, and their alternative is a burger chain."

Bachelder says that convincing customers to pick Popeyes chicken over competitors isn't a major concern.

"At Popeyes we don't use the word loyal — we use zealot," says Bachelder. "You become a Popeyes zealot as soon as you experience Popeye's food."

In addition to plans to open 1,500 new locations around the world, Popeyes additionally announced plans to grow domestic average unit volumes from approximately $1.4 million to $2 million, increasing franchisee profitability.

These goals were announced as the chain reported that global same-store sales increased 5.9% in 2015, with net income for the year reaching $44.1 million.

Looking ahead, the company says it plans to invest $2 million this year in funding more location visits and coaching, as well as new technology. Bachelder says Popeyes' three strategic pillars will continue to be its passionate teams of employees, routine excellence, and Louisiana heritage.

"I think of us as the exporter of Louisiana food, both in the United States and around the world, because if you haven't tasted these incredible flavors, you just haven't lived yet," says Bachelder.

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