KANSAS CITY — Initially arising in 2019 with a dispute between restaurant brands Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, the competition for chicken sandwich supremacy has caused a string of restaurants to introduce their own contenders. Now, almost four years later, chicken sandwiches remain a popular menu addition. Twenty-twenty-two saw creative spins on the chicken sandwich, with foodservice operators adding their own take on everything from the toppings to the sauce.
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, a Restaurant Brands International concept, added a new breading-free take to its menu, inspired by the popular blackened chicken dish. The blackened chicken sandwich is flavored with a marinade of Cajun and Creole spices and served on a brioche bun with classic or spicy mayo and pickles.
Although many foodservice locations have thrown their names into the chicken sandwich ring, not all have seen the same success.
In July 2022, Starbucks Corp. pulled its breakfast chicken sandwich less than a week after the item’s nationwide launch at the end of June.
“We issued a voluntary stop sell and discard on the chicken, maple butter and egg sandwich because the product didn’t meet Starbucks quality standards,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Food Business News in July. “We are committed to a high level of quality in the products that we serve and always act with an abundance of caution whenever a product or quality issue is raised.”
Taking the chicken sandwich in a spicy direction seemed to be the way many companies headed in 2022. Wendy’s debuted a hot honey chicken biscuit and a hot honey chicken sandwich in February, both of which were made using habanero peppers.
“They (habanero peppers) definitely are on the higher end of the Scoville scale, but they also have a ton of flavor,” said Eryn Bennett, manager, culinary and product innovation, in a Feb. 2 webinar.
While Wendy’s turned to hot honey, KFC Canada, a Yum! Brands concept, launched a limited-edition spicy chicken sandwich, the Kentucky Scorcher. The sandwich was made with chicken breast, covered with Scorcher sauce and spicy mayo and topped with pickles on a toasted bun. The sauce reached a Scoville level of 13,500, which is more than double that of Tabasco sauce, according to the company. While supplies lasted, KFC Canada locations were offering free milk with any purchase of the Kentucky Scorcher sandwich.
Wingstop Restaurants, Inc., also introduced a limited-edition chicken sandwich, topped with the company’s Carolina Gold BBQ sauce, inspired by the traditions of the Carolinas and their mustard-based barbecue sauces.
“Wingstop’s Carolina Gold BBQ flavor maintains the classic queues of mustard, vinegar and brown sugar flavors that are true to its origins, but — in Wingstop fashion — our flavor stands out from the crowd,” said Chef Larry Bellah, director of culinary and R&D. “It’s heavier on the sweetness, making this flavor delectable and surprisingly craveable for even the biggest mustard skeptics. It’s a must try, especially on our Chicken Sandwich.”