- McDonald's is launching three chicken sandwiches — the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Deluxe Chicken Sandwich — nationwide starting Feb. 24. The chain began testing the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich in Houston and Knoxville, Tennessee in December 2019.
- Marketing for the menu additions will begin in March, Business Insider reports based on an internal memo. The publication also notes that the chicken sandwiches, minus the Deluxe option, will be served in foil bags, the same way Chick-fil-A and Popeyes package their sandwiches.
- McDonald's USA President Joe Erlinger told investors in November that the chain would increase its number of chicken items because the category is growing more quickly than beef, despite recent efforts to simplify its menu for franchisees. Erlinger said the chain's operators are "excited" about new chicken launches.
The chicken sandwich wars of 2019 may gain new traction this year thanks to McDonald's impending reentry to the battleground.
"We've heard our customers loud and clear, and we know they’re craving more chicken options," McDonald's Vice President of Menu Innovation Linda VanGosen said in a company release.
Chicken sandwiches proved to be growth drivers despite pandemic pressure in 2020, with Popeyes' chicken sandwich driving strong comp sales growth during the first two weeks of March. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the chain's popular offering helped Popeyes increase comp sales by 34.4% in Q4 2019, and comp sales for 2019 overall rose 12.1% compared to an increase of just 1.6% in 2018.
A new suite of chicken sandwiches could help McDonald's continue the sales momentum it gained in 2020, mostly thanks to its drive-thru channel. The sandwiches also fulfill a demand of its franchisees — last summer the National Owners Association of McDonald's operators said that launching a new chicken sandwich offering was a top priority to gain a competitive edge against Chick-fil-A, which has seen strong gains in sales and positive consumer sentiment in recent years.
McDonald's recent non-sandwich chicken offerings have also proven popular. The chain experienced supply shortages of its Spicy Chicken McNuggets LTO just two weeks after launch in October, a rarity for the company's robust supply chain. McDonald's said in an emailed statement that it could bring back the offering in the future to satisfy customer demand. The QSR giant's new Spicy Chicken Sandwich could incite similar diner interest, since Grubhub's "State of the Plate" report for 2020 found that spicy chicken sandwich orders spiked by almost 300% year-over-year.