The One Dish Everyone Is Getting Delivered During Quarantine

Spring of 2020 sure was a weird one, wasn't it? Instead of celebrating the warming weather by getting out and about, we were all hunkering down, sheltering in place, and becoming a nation of couch potatoes – for once, with the vocal encouragement of the entire health care community. What's more, we were told that the best way to stimulate our slumping economy while staying safe at home was to order lots and lots of takeout. Wow, heroism has never been so effortless or enjoyable!

So what was everybody's favorite delivery order during our darkest days? Different data crunchers come up with different results. Another survey found that Mexican food was the type of cuisine most of us were craving, a finding that's somewhat borne out by GrubHub's mid-2020 "State of the Plate" listing chimichangas, beef burritos, and potato tacos among the year's top items. 

As for the one menu item that had the highest bump in popularity during quarantine? That would be the spicy chicken sandwich – which GrubHub revealed to be 353 percent more popular during the quarantine period of March 18 – June 18, 2020, compared to the same time period last year, based on both order and search trends.

What made spicy chicken so popular?

Since the data does not give us a reason why spicy chicken sandwiches became the nation's number one quarantine delivery item, that leaves room for speculation. One theory might be that everyone who'd heard so much about the great Chick-fil-A vs. Popeye's chicken sandwich wars of 2019 but had never gotten around to trying the latter's much-lauded entry, found that quarantine delivery offered the ideal opportunity. After all, if even the delivery person is keeping their distance, there's no danger of being caught up in a traffic jam, much less a deadly brawl.

Plus, it didn't hurt that some of the main chicken sandwich players were upping their delivery game during the quarantine. Popeye's offered promos like a shared Netflix password and introduced several family meal bundles featuring their spicy chicken sandwiches, while Chick-fil-A also featured mix-and-match family meals in which spicy chicken sandwiches were an entree option. KFC then jumped into the game with a late-arriving but well-received spicy sandwich of their own, and Wendy's revamped their $5 Biggie Bag to feature a chicken sandwich option.

One final reason why spicy chicken (as well as spicy Mexican, spicy Thai, and all things heat-enhanced) grew so popular during quarantine might have to do with all the health benefits offered by spicy foods. After all, foods containing hot peppers are heart-healthy, boost the immune system (always good during a pandemic), and may even help with weight loss instead of just adding to the dreaded "quarantine 15."