A deadly stabbing at Popeyes was linked to the return of the chicken sandwich, and it reflects a troubling trend for fast-food workers

When the chicken sandwich returned to Popeyes on Sunday, it brought some chaos with it.

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When the chicken sandwich returned to Popeyes on Sunday, it brought some chaos with it.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Reports of angry and violent customers emerged across social media and news outlets after Popeyes brought back its chicken sandwich on Sunday.

On Monday, a man was stabbed to death in a Maryland Popeyes parking lot during an altercation that broke out in the line for the chain’s relaunched chicken sandwich, according to police.

Violence also marked the chicken sandwich’s chaotic first release in August. In early September, after the sandwich had sold out, KTRK-TV in Houston reported that armed robbers stormed a Popeyes restaurant demanding that employees make them chicken sandwiches.

So far, the violence has not resulted in any Popeyes employee deaths. Popeyes did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on these incidents. However, fast-food workers are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of fatal violence in the workplace.

The threat of ‘spillover violence’

In 2017, 29 food industry workers were murdered while on the job, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That’s an increase from 26 in 2016, 23 in 2015, and 15 in 2014. A total of 89 restaurant industry workers died from fatal injuries at work in 2017, with another 72,310 suffering injuries on the job.

Restaurants face a unique threat of “spillover violence,” according to Mike Clumpner, the president of security consulting firm Threat Suppression. Many shootings and other incidents that take place in chain restaurants are tied to gangs, domestic disputes, and other instances in which shooters are targeting specific individuals, not a specific location.

Experts say that employee training is one of the best ways to prevent and address the threat of mass shootings. If employees feel confident to spot red flags and take action, they can alert police before a shooting occurs or as quickly as possible once something happens.

Many chains are in the process of creating or revamping their active shooter training. However, making sure that every worker is properly trained can be challenging. Many chains grant franchisees control over how and when to conduct trainings. With a high rate of turnover, it is difficult to keep every employee trained with up-to-date information.

“It is a major concern for some people such as that they’re constantly evaluating people and judging people and thinking of escape routes and where’s the safest place to be,” one McDonald’s worker told Business Insider in August. Business Insider granted anonymity to this McDonald’s employee in order to allow them to speak frankly without fear of retribution.

“Not gonna lie, definitely have thought: this guy has a gun and I’m about to die, let me go hide in the freezer,” the McDonald’s worker said.