Erupting in the wake of Popeyes’ hugely successful chicken sandwich launch in August 2019, the so-called “chicken-sandwich wars” pitted Popeyes and Chick-fil-A in a highly publicized battle for poultry supremacy that helped the former set sales records and the latter reassert its status as the leader in the space.
The wars also inspired a whole new generation of chicken-sandwich R&D across the restaurant industry. And now one emerging Miami-based fast casual is wading directly into the battle—not only by launching its own chicken sandwich offering, but also by calling an end to the wars altogether.
PINCHO, which has expanded to 10 locations in South Florida, introduced its new chicken sandwich, El Crispy, earlier this month. It features a 100 percent certified antibiotic-free chicken breast coated in a seasoned flour breading, served on a locally baked brioche bun and topped with pickles and a signature PINCHO sauce.
To promote El Crispy, PINCHO published an open letter to Popeyes and Chick-fil-A inviting representatives from the brands to a Peace Summit on October 24 at PINCHO’s location in Hialeah, Florida. The event will be streamed on social media for fans to take part.
Otto Othman, the brand’s cofounder and CEO, says the Peace Summit is a light-hearted attempt at bringing some levity during a tumultuous year.
“Can we just be the peaceful sandwich?” he says. “Why can’t we just go out there and say, ‘You know what? 2020 has had enough.’”
The Peace Summit—coming more than a full year after the wars were initiated, timing that the open letter claims is “in typical Miami fashion”—isn’t just intended to settle the bad blood between the chicken behemoths. Othman hopes it will encourage a bit of collaboration, too.
“Let’s try to collaborate and see if we can use each other’s sauces on each other’s sandwiches and then possibly have the PINCHO El Crispy with the Chick-fil-A sauce or the Popeyes’ sandwich with the Chick-fil-A sauce,” he says.
El Crispy was developed by PINCHO’s director of culinary, Adrian Sanchez, who previously owned a chicken-based food truck. Othman says Sanchez used to make chicken sandwiches for team members, but the brand hesitated in adding it to the menu because not every location had a fryer.
Lately, though, he says consumer trends clearly point to chicken gaining momentum and beef falling from favor.
“People are venturing off into more chicken and they’re venturing into more fish and more pasta or whatever,” he says. “So that’s why a lot of these chicken concepts are crushing it right now, because it’s sort of like the new better burger is the better chicken.”
El Crispy is one of PINCHO’s biggest menu launches in its 10-year history. The brand originally launched as a burger and kebab concept in 2010, featuring standouts like the Toston Burger (a burger topped with provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, and cilantro sauce, with fried plantains replacing the bun) and chicken, steak, and shrimp kebabs available in a salad, bowl, or straight up. Then, earlier this year, the brand added Plates, which allowed guests to order an entrée with two sides. That addition positioned PINCHO as more of a dinner opportunity, and also gave guests the option of including more healthful sides, like a roasted veggies side that debuted with the Plates platform.
As for the chicken sandwich’s positioning, Othman thinks it gives the brand a stronger player in the value game. The sandwich sells for $5.99, while a deluxe version with cheese, lettuce, and tomato is available for $6.99.
“People have lost their jobs. People are on a budget. We’re going into a recession,” Othman says. “We won’t discount our food. We’ll do crazy promotions, but we’re not the brand that’ll say, ‘Tuesdays are 20 percent off.’ We would rather create items that are on the lower end in terms of pricing.”