The chicken sandwich wars

Now with McDonald’s new Crispy Chicken Sandwich release, eight major restaurant chains are currently selling chicken sandwiches. Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Zaxby’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, KFC, and Burger King are the other seven. The term “chicken sandwich wars” have been bouncing around recently because of the mass amount of chicken sandwiches arriving in different restaurants, many of which don’t usually sell chicken dishes.

Chicken sandwiches have long been one of the top sandwiches in the U.S., ever since the release of Popeyes famed chicken sandwich. That was the point where the “chicken sandwich wars” started and more and more major fast food chains started coming out with their own version of the American favorite.

It’s also been found that chicken sandwiches have been on a rise since the pandemic. Since 2020, Chick-fil-A has gotten more chicken sandwich orders online than any other restaurant. And as Forbes reported, chicken sandwiches have been the most popular dish to order during the pandemic via DoorDash.

A graph tracking where the percentage of chicken sandwich sales have followed, from January 2019 to November 2020. [Photo credit: QSR magazine]

Several restaurants have updated and tested their new round of chicken sandwiches, determined to win over customers by taste, toppings, and prices. The Chick-fil-A Original Chicken Sandwich consisted of a boneless fried chicken breast and pickle slices in between two buns, but now chicken sandwich features toppings including Zaxby’s Zax sauce, mayonnaise, lettuce, and or tomatoes.

Specifically, the order of chicken sandwiches in the eight mentioned food chains are:

  • 1964: Chick-fil-A first debuted their Original Chicken Sandwich.

  • Aug 2016: Arby’s released four new chicken sandwiches.

  • Aug 2019: Popeyes’ chicken sandwich reached the markets and became an automatic hit, starting the chicken sandwich wars.

  • May 2020: KFC improved and introduced their take on the chicken sandwich.

  • Oct 2020: Wendy’s upgraded to the Classic Chicken Sandwich.

  • Oct 2020: Zaxby’s released their Signature Chicken Sandwich after “30 years in the making”, according to CEO Joel Bulger.

  • Feb 2021: McDonald’s debuted their Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a tsunami of billboards and advertisements.

  • Feb 2021: Burger King rolled out their own chicken sandwich.

Out of the eight main brands, I tried four of them: Zaxby’s, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Popeyes. Unfortunately, the McDonald’s chicken sandwich was not worth the hype. The buns were slightly burnt and the actual chicken breast was dry. The Zaxby’s sandwich was the most expensive and came in third place, also for being dry.

A Zaxby’s billboard advertised their place in the chicken sandwich wars. [Photo credit: Adweek]

The rise ever since Popeyes’ release has only continued, and it can’t be long before the chicken sandwich meets its downfall. Yet more and more restaurants continue to come out with their own version of the craved dish. As Zaxby’s billboard slogan proclaims, “The chicken sandwich war ain’t over yet”.

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