Fried chicken is making headlines in the fast food world. According to Business Insider, of the 100 biggest restaurant chains in the U.S., three of the five fastest-growing are chicken concepts. In addition, the chicken sector has been in the No. 1 category in the fast-food business by purchase consideration since last April.
Now that fried chicken is a hot item on the menu, many fast food restaurants are finding unique ways to incorporate it.
Taco Bell introduced the new Naked Chicken Chalupa – a Chalupa that swaps a traditional tortilla shell with fried chicken – on Thursday. Taco Bell is also testing Fried Chicken Chips in Irvine, California. The chain has also hinted that a breakfast Naked Chicken Chalupa could be in the works.
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McDonald’s hopped on the fried-chicken train last week with its new test item, the Chicken McGriddle breakfast sandwich – a simplified take on the southern staple: chicken and waffles.
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According to McDonald’s, the sandwich is a combination of chicken from the McChicken sandwich and the pillow-soft pancake-bun of the McGriddle.
Arby’s also relaunched its fried chicken meal last August and plans to add more chicken sandwiches to the menu in 2017. According to BI, the revamped sandwich is made with a larger chicken filet than the brand’s previous version that’s marinated in buttermilk and coated in a buttermilk breading.
Arby’s senior vice president of product development Jim Taylor claims that the sandwich is juicer and more flavorful, with a mix of sweet and savory that “aims to excite more areas of your palate.”
“I think America has always had a love affair with fried chicken,” Taylor told Business Insider. “Let’s face it, a lot of things taste great fried.”
Business Insider reports that this sudden interest in fried chicken at restaurants better known for burritos, burgers, and roast beef sandwiches is based on a combination of factors.
In 2016, chicken prices were significantly lower than beef prices, giving chicken chains a competitive advantage in the burger-centric world of fast food.
Chicken Is No Longer Seen As “Unhealthy”
In the ’90s and early 2000s, fried chicken was widely regarded as an unhealthy choice. And KFC, one of the largest chicken chains at the time, wasn’t doing much to help fried chicken’s reputation. However, in 2016, fried chicken transformed into a high-quality menu item.
Celebrity chef David Chang’s fried chicken concept Fuku and Shake Shack’s Chick’n Shack sandwich played a key role in making quick-service chicken trendy.
“The Chick’n Shack embodies our modern approach to fine casual American cooking,” Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati said in a statement.
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“It’s about providing a simple, pleasurable, uncomplicated experience, but with high-quality, responsibly sourced ingredients. It wasn’t until we found the chicken sandwich to be as flavorful as our ShackBurger that we knew we’d crafted something special that had earned its place on the menu. Since we introduced the Chick’n Shack in Brooklyn, guests have been asking us to bring it to all Shacks, and we couldn’t be more excited to finally do so.”
Chick-fil-A also helped usher fried chicken into the fast-food world by becoming the No. 1 chicken chain in the U.S. by sales. In 2015, the company reported that same-store growth was in the double-digits.
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