RESTAURANTS

The Mardi Gras Tradition That Inspired Popeyes' Drive-Thru Balconies
  • Feb. 4, 2023 1:11 pm EST

Fast food restaurants have all kinds of design secrets — from the crossed palm trees at In 'N' Out Burger locations to the rooftop garden planned for a specific McDonald's location (via Az Central). But one of the most fascinating design details that most people miss is located at every Popeyes' drive-thru. If you've ever sat in a Popeyes' drive-thru while you waited for your Po' Boy, then you've probably noticed that every location has a balcony above the drive-thru, per Mental Floss. 

What's the point of having a balcony if there never seem to be any people on it? Apparently, the balconies over the Popeyes' drive-thrus pay homage to a specific holiday. If you live in the South, you might already have an inkling as to what that holiday might be and what the balcony is for, but if you don't, here's a hint: the balconies have nothing to do with watching fireworks, but according to French Quarterly, people do use them to watch something else.

The holiday that inspired Popeyes' drive-thru balconies

You might forget that Popeyes was actually first called Popeyes' Louisiana Kitchen, but naturally, the state's influences can be found in every aspect of Popeyes' culture, from the food to the hospitality to that mysterious drive-thru balcony. Yes, those balconies pay homage to one of the biggest holidays of the year in Louisiana: Mardi Gras, Mental Floss explains.

New Orleans' French Quarter, the hotspot for all things Mardi Gras, is known for its many balconies overlooking the street. According to Good Housekeeping, on Mardi Gras, as parades and second lines abound, people-watchers often stand on the balconies and toss Mardi Gras beads into the streets. Mardi Gras is the last big celebration before Lent starts, so it often involves good music, flashy parades, and all kinds of indulgent food (via History). It seems especially appropriate to tie that piece of Louisiana tradition into a fast food restaurant with Southern charm, jazzy flair, and filling comfort food, and with their drive-thru balconies, Popeyes' found the perfect way to do just that.

Does anyone actually use Popeyes' drive-thru balconies during Mardi Gras?

You may never have seen anyone hanging out on the Popeyes' balconies, but does that mean the balconies are only for decoration? Or do the balconies serve a larger purpose in the Popeyes' franchise? If you're now tempted to climb up on one of Popeyes' drive-thru balconies, please don't. Not only would you cause a ruckus in the drive-thru, but Popeyes' famous balconies are also just for show. That's right — no one actually uses them to throw beads on Mardi Gras, 12 Tomatoes claims. 

Any windows above the balconies are sealed shut, so there isn't actually a way to get onto the balconies in the first place, per Architecture + Branding. It might surprise you that the drive-thru balcony isn't the prime hangout spot for employees after closing — it's just a fun piece of Louisiana culture that will transport you to the French Quarter. If you want to stand on a real balcony, you're better off taking a Mardi Gras trip to New Orleans.