Restaurants Push Poultry Forward

QSRs continue to expand on chicken’s popularity with new menu items.

January 23, 2024

“Americans are inundated with fried chicken, wings and crispy chicken sandwiches. The biggest restaurant chains are betting they can stomach a bit more,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Journal, more restaurant chains are looking to add chicken to their menus, especially as beef prices rise. Popeye’s introduced ghost pepper wings, while Chick-fil-A offered a new version of its classic chicken sandwich. KFC added chicken tender wraps to its menu and Wingstop expanded its offerings with nearly a dozen different sauces for its wings and sandwiches.

Burger franchises like McDonald’s and Burger King are exploring more ways to offer chicken on their menu, the Journal noted. In 2021, McDonald’s launched its McCrispy chicken sandwich, which now generates $1 billion in annual global sales. The QSR is also looking to bring its snack wraps back to the menu after scrapping them during the COVID pandemic.

While burgers still outsell chicken sandwiches at fast-food restaurants, the Journal reported that in the restaurant industry overall, chicken products outsold beef, citing market research firm Circana.

The Journal also reported that chicken listings on restaurant menus, including items such as nuggets, tenders and sandwiches, are up 6.4% in the past five years, compared with 4.7% for burgers and other beef-based items, citing market research firm Technomic.

Wingstop is counting on 11 different flavors and a five-degree heat scale to help its new chicken sandwich stand out, said CEO Michael Skipworth. “Consumers really like that, not only something that’s quality but something that’s customized,” he said in an interview with the Journal.

Chicken is appealing to the price-conscious customer, as burger prices are up 10% at fast-food chains in the past year compared with 5% for chicken sandwiches, Technomic said. Shake Shack and other restaurant chains have also stated that they expect the price of beef to continue to rise in 2024, the Journal reported.