McDonald’s is amping up the chicken sandwich wars with three new chicken sandwiches set to debut February 24.
The fast-food giant will soon offer a Crispy Chicken Sandwich topped with crinkle cut pickles, served on a toasted, buttered potato roll; a Spicy Chicken Sandwich served with Spicy Pepper Sauce and crinkle cut pickles on a toasted potato roll; and the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich, which will consist of shredded lettuce, Roma tomatoes, and mayo. The sandwiches were tested in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Houston, from December 2, 2019, through January 26, 2020.
“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear, and we know they’re craving more chicken options,” said Vice President of Menu Innovation Linda VanGosen, in a statement. “We’re confident all chicken fans—from traditionalists to spice—will discover a new menu favorite they’ll come back for time and time again.”
The news follows the roll out of Spicy Chicken McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce in September. It was the first time in the U.S. since 1983 that McDonald’s introduced a new Chicken McNuggets flavor. The chain’s chicken menu also includes the McChicken Sandwich, Chicken McGriddle, and the McChicken Biscuit sandwich.
The roll out of the new chicken sandwiches is years in the making. The push has been in an effort to compete with the growing popularity of Chick-fil-A, which ended 2019 with an AUV of $4.5 million, compared to $2.9 million at McDonald’s.
In July 2019, the McDonald’s National Owners Association wrote in an email that the brand should make a chicken sandwich its top priority. Prior to the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, McDonald’s hadn’t tested a chicken sandwich offering since it piloted an Ultimate Chicken Sandwich in more than 160 Washington locations. The brand previously had a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich—served on a hamburger bun with a fried chicken filet and pickles—but it was discontinued in 2015 after 10 years.
McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said during a recent investors update that the chicken sandwiches exceeded expectations on key metrics during testing and that McDonald’s believes the sandwiches will “jump start our chicken journey, build our chicken credentials, and get people to start looking at us differently."
“Developing a reputation for great chicken represents one of our highest aspirations,” Erlinger said during the investor update. “We want customers to choose McDonald’s for chicken because of the unique, craveable flavor that they can only get under the arches. To get started, we listened to consumers, to understand our current barriers and potential. What’s clear is that none of our markets are ‘one chicken sandwich away’ from achieving this goal. We have to take a broader approach, one where chicken is a platform not a single product. It’s a multi-tiered strategy that taps into the significant potential of this category, informed and inspired by successes from all over the world.”
In the past year and a half, a host of quick-service brands have rolled out new chicken sandwiches, most notably Popeye’s, which is still reaping the benefits after its product went viral in the summer and fall of 2019. Other chains that have tested new chicken sandwiches include Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, KFC, and Burger King, among several others.