Chicken Sandwiches Give Fast Food Chains a Boost
The Chicken Sandwich War
A group of McDonald’s franchises said last month that chicken “clearly is the future of fast food.” At least 10 major American fast-food chains have either recently launched or announced fried chicken sandwiches on their menus. Many chains which are better known for their burgers, like Shake Shack (SHAK) and Jack in the Box (JACK), are hoping to capitalize on the chicken-sandwich-fever that has led to success for Chick-fil-A and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (QSR). Competition in the chicken sandwich market has become so intense that the fast food industry is calling it the “chicken sandwich war.”
As of late 2020, American restaurant and convenience chains were selling an estimated 213 chicken sandwich varieties. That is up 22% from the year before, signaling a rise in chicken’s popularity. Take McDonald’s for instance: the restaurant’s American menu has not featured a Southern-style battered-chicken sandwich for many years, but the fast-food giant will soon launch a Crispy Chicken Sandwich with crinkle-cut potatoes and a buttered potato bun. That sandwich will join several other chicken sandwich offerings currently on the McDonald’s menu.
Chicken is Americans’ Meat of Choice
Though fast food restaurants continue to sell more beef than chicken sandwiches by roughly 3-to-1, chicken has been the most popular meat in America since 1992. Last year US consumers bought 1.4 billion more chicken patties, thighs, and the like than they did beef products.
Those trends have translated into the restaurant chain space. When Popeyes launched a chicken sandwich in 2019 customer enthusiasm caused long lines and a temporary shortage. The chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International, experienced a boom in sales that has been long-lasting. Now other restaurants are working to cash in on the trend.
Restaurants Invest in Poultry Preparation
The transition to chicken has driven restaurant groups to invest in new equipment. For example, the owners of Church’s Chicken say that the equipment needed to make its new chicken sandwiches costs about $3,000. Restaurants hope to see significant returns on these investments as chicken sandwiches tend to be more profitable than beef burgers.
Jumbo-size boneless, skinless chicken breast meat fell last year to its lowest price in over three decades—roughly $1.01 per pound. In August the price fell below $1, where it remained until this month. Restaurant closures and falling exports are behind the price dip, and fast-food chains aim to take advantage of this trend before demand rises and prices climb again.
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