The Rising Demand And Inflation Of The Chicken Sandwich
When it comes to fast food, burgers have reigned supreme pretty much since the first McDonald’s opened in California in 1955. However, in recent years, another meat has come to try and dethrone the champion – the chicken sandwich. While this menu option has been around forever, it’s experiencing a moment in modern fast food trends.
Unfortunately, while demand is increasing, inflation and supply chain issues threaten the chicken sandwich’s meteoric rise. To understand what’s going on, let’s look at how we got here and what the future of chicken sandwiches may look like.
History Of The Chicken Sandwich
When talking about “fast food” chicken sandwiches, the brand Chick-Fil-A claims that it invented the item and that all others are substitutes for the original. While this claim is mostly a marketing ploy, there is some truth to it. According to legend, Chick-Fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, created a chicken alternative to a regular hamburger by using a pressure-cooked chicken filet. This was back in 1946 when Cathy opened his original restaurant, the Dwarf Grill.
While chicken sandwiches (and chicken burgers) had existed before then, Cathy was the one who made it possible to serve customers quickly and efficiently, and this was all before McDonald’s developed its factory-style kitchen. Over time, the Dwarf Grill became the Dwarf House and then Chick-Fil-A.
The War Of The Chicken Sandwich
As with all wars, the chicken sandwich wars began with a single shot. Specifically, the shot came from Popeye’s, and it was heard around the (fast food) world. It’s hard to believe that it took until 2019 for such a culinary battle to start, but since then, all chains have been going hard on pushing their version of this tasty treat.
It all started when Popeye’s unveiled its version of the chicken sandwich, complete with proprietary seasoning and sauces. After its debut, Chick-Fil-A called the chain out on social media, and a frenzy ensued. Popeye’s sold out of its sandwiches practically overnight, and the fervor took weeks to die down. With such an outpouring of support, other chains had to strike while the griddle was hot. After all, a single menu item gave Popeye’s a 38 percent sales increase that year.
Eventually, all other chains got in on the act, including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC (although they were late to the party), and Carl’s Jr. (aka Hardee’s). In 2022, the hullabaloo has died down slightly, but the chicken sandwich cemented its place on fast food menus once and for all.
How Inflation Is Affecting Demand
These days, it’s hard to escape the looming specter of inflation, and chicken sandwiches are just the latest in a long line of food items that have been hit hard by this trend. For example, Popeye’s chicken sandwich was $3.92 in 2021, but a year later, it’s $4.80 – a 22-percent increase. Similarly, the McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich saw a 15-percent increase over the same period. Across the board, these sandwiches are getting more expensive, both for fast food and local restaurants.
However, the food industry is nothing if not adaptable. Also, it seems that consumers’ lust for these sandwiches is still palpable. The latest fighters in the war are Buffalo Wild Wings and Wing Stop. Wing Stop actually re-launched its sandwich and had a Popeye’s moment of its own, selling out in a matter of days.
So, regardless of higher prices and increased challenges, the message is clear – customers want chicken, no matter the cost. Move over cows, there’s a new meat in town.