Legacy chicken brand Layne’s Chicken Fingers — which just launched its franchise opportunity last year — made a name for itself in its home state of Texas by providing a simple menu of perfectly executed fried chicken favorites. The ‘soon to be famous’ franchise that is already a household name in Texas hasn’t changed much in its 30-year history. To be fair, it hasn’t had to. 

But that doesn’t mean the brand is scared to change. These days, change is in the air, even in the chicken world. Consumers, particularly millennials and gen-Z consumers, are increasingly seeking out spicier options, and Layne’s Chicken Fingers is well-prepared to meet that demand. In January, Layne’s unveiled its first new menu item since 1994: spicy chicken. 

“We are never interested in change for the sake of change alone,” says Garrett Reed, Layne’s CEO. “We would rather offer a set number of absolutely perfected items than constantly roll out hit-and-miss experiments, but we do look closely at the trends, and right now, everyone is looking for bold flavors. In our segment, that means spicy chicken.” 

Samir Wattar, Layne’s COO, says the brand dedicated extensive research to ensure the new item would appeal to existing fans and potential new customers, as well as franchise owners and employees. 

“The data showed us that we would do well to have a spicy option, so we started researching what was out there,” he says. “We found a breading option that fits exactly what we do and allows us to incorporate new spices. We came up with a product we were excited about and tested it with focus groups that included customers, franchisees and employees. Seventy-five percent of the people who tried it said they would absolutely order it again. That was an exciting response, so we rolled the item out to our stores.” 

Since introducing its spicy chicken option, Wattar says the item accounts for 20% of all meal-deals sold across Layne’s stores, an unequivocal success for a new item launch.

“The sales are fantastic, and just as important, so are the reviews,” Wattar says. “All of our fans are talking about it online, and when we post any social media promoting it, we get incredible feedback.” 

Based on those sales and the overwhelming feedback from fans, Reed says Layne’s is preparing to roll out a few more new items this year. 

“We’ve got some more surprises coming this year that I don’t want to spoil, but I can say that we’re really excited about some new side options, including some staples that go hand-in-hand with fried chicken, like mac and cheese and cheese poppers,” he says. “We are also adding new milkshake options.” 

As Layne’s continues to make the most of its hit new item, Reed says the brand is rolling out a big promotional push to get new and existing customers to try its spicy chicken offering, including direct mailers offering a free spicy tender with the purchase of anything else on the menu. 

“That’s a pretty generous promotion that you don’t see in our segment very often, but we are just so excited to get people to try this item,” Reed says. “We’ve seen the response from people who have already tried it, so we know that anything we can do to get more people to try it is going to continue to drive sales and bring more customers to our franchise owners.”

Fast Casual, Marketing & Promotions, Menu Innovations, News, Layne's Chicken Fingers