Why The Fast Food Chicken Wars Won't Be Over Anytime Soon

Years later, the chicken sandwich wars continue to rage on. Popeyes tapped into the public's desire for a great chicken sandwich back in 2019, and over the next year, McDonald's, Wendy's, Checkers, and basically every other major fast food chain came up with a fried chicken sandwich that could compete with the Popeyes' original (via QSR Magazine). The excitement hasn't died down. Chicken sales, while outpaced by burgers, continue to gain momentum. In 2020, 2.5 billion fried chicken sandwiches were ordered from restaurants, and as of April 2021, 65% of the U.S. general population had ordered a fried chicken sandwich in the past six months. 

The fast food chicken wars have now expanded beyond a competition between chains and turned into a marketing philosophy. According to the Orange County Register, marketing experts have stated that as a rule, every restaurant needs to now have a competing chicken sandwich in order to build uncompromising brand loyalty. Each chain has also equated their chicken sandwich with certain stances, like Popeyes sandwich standing in firm opposition to Chick-fil-A's sandwich and the company's perceived social values or how Burger King's chicken sandwich launched with a promised donation to an LGBTQ+ advocacy group. Carl's Jr.'s sandwich even associates with the brand's OnlyFans page, giving it a risqué feeling. All of these factors combine to give each restaurant a perceived value in the mind of the consumer, building brand strength and identity.

The future of the chicken sandwich wars

Experts believe the hype around each restaurant's chicken sandwich has only helped cement brand identities in the minds of hungry diners (via Orange County Register). The values attached to the sandwich attract specific niches of diners and have turned into a marketing strategy that every brand now utilizes. Even if the excitement around the sandwiches subsides, the sandwiches shouldn't disappear from menus anytime soon, as patrons now associate those items with distinct stances each restaurant has taken. Plus, any "new" item eventually becomes standard menu fare.

If you have fallen for a few of the chicken sandwiches launched over the course of fast food chicken wars, take stock and see which brands you have put your weight behind. Whether you hold one product above all others or just love a good chicken sandwich, you can rest assured that this style of menu item should continue to see some incredible momentum this year and you can expect more solid sandwiches in the future, per QSR Magazine. Stay vigilant and you might just find the next product to identify with as the chicken sandwich wars inevitably continue to rage on.