The item launched in June to rave reviews.

FAT Brands, parent company of Fatburger, usually plans LTOs a year in advance—like so many other quick-service brands, there’s plenty of research and marketing preparation the company’s leadership must take care of prior to the rollout. So when a supply chain issue this spring made a long-planned LTO a no-go, Fatburger needed a new plan in a hurry. 

“We have a standard LTO process, but today’s environment is anything but standard,” says Taylor Fischer, director of marketing of the fast casual division at FAT Brands. “With rising food costs and supply chain constraints, we’ve had to go back to the drawing board on occasion.” 

So where does one start when they are tasked with planning a crowd-pleasing LTO in a relative hurry? For Fischer, she had been seeing Mike’s Hot Honey pop up on social, hearing about it from friends, and she’d been following the general hot honey trend—Datassential reported that the trendy condiment grew nearly 200 percent on menus between 2016 and 2020.

And so Fischer reached out to Mike’s Hot Honey, and an LTO was born: the Mike’s Hot Honey Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which launched in mid June. The sandwich features Fatburger’s signature hand-breaded, crispy chicken breast, with pickles, bacon, and a generous drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey “to deliver a perfect balance of sweetness and heat.” The sandwich has already made waves at the brand’s 100-plus-unit domestic footprint (Fatburger also has about 90 international locations). 

Fischer and her team at FAT Brands say that a lot of the buzz surrounding the sandwich is owed to how well the two brands worked together on the launch, supporting on social channels, email, and even co-sponsoring a launch event at a Los Angeles-based Fatburger.

“Mike flew to L.A. and met with our team in our office, and it was so apparent that he lives and breathes the brand,” Fischer says. “He is genuinely a nice guy who has endless love for the brand that he created. It didn’t feel like he wanted to sell us something, he was more focused on discussing possible builds, and suggesting how we may be able to use the product.”

Of course, the way Kurtz and his team sprang into action is not as surprising to those who have worked with the Mike’s Hot Honey team in the past: the vendor is known for its grassroots marketing efforts, including the promotion of LTOs that leverage the surging ingredient. The personal touch is a huge part of the Mike’s Hot Honey DNA, which makes sense when you consider the company’s humble origins. 

Years ago, it was Mike Kurtz who began experimenting with honey and peppers in his college dorm room after eating plenty of hot honey on pizza during a semester abroad in Brazil. It was Kurtz who began selling the product out of the kitchen of Paulie Gee’s, the pizzeria he worked out of in Brooklyn that also used the original Mike’s Hot Honey on one of its signature pies. Today, you can still see Kurtz on the “Mike’s Trike” tricycle around New York City, giving out samples at various community events, promoting restaurant partnerships, and spreading the word about his hot honey.

Kurtz says he still always gets excited when brands like Fatburger reach out. It gives his company an opportunity to showcase its product, and just how versatile it can be. Mike’s Hot Honey has been featured on LTOs throughout the restaurant industry, on anything from breakfast sandwiches, to pizza, to ice cream, or in milkshakes. And Fatburger, in particular, holds a special place in Kurtz’s heart—the collaboration was truly a right place, right time kind-of-thing. 

“Partnering with Fatburger, an iconic LA brand, is a dream come true for me,” Kurtz says. “I still vividly remember my maiden voyage to Fatburger on my first trip to LA and it’s always a regular stop whenever I’m in town. Fatburger is a part of LA culture and we’re very excited to share this new sandwich and our Hot Honey with Fatburger fans.” 

For a free sample of Mike’s Hot Honey, visit the company’s website

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