Although already a perennial favorite with consumers, chicken sandwiches are showing no signs of flying the coop: This category has grown 2.7% since 2016, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. With the verifiable explosion of chicken sandwiches on restaurant menus, operators have considerable motivation to offer unique takes on this classic.
The popularity of the chicken sandwich has been driven in part by consumers’ seemingly insatiable desire for handhelds in general. Consumers eat on average 3.7 sandwiches per week, according to Technomic’s recent Sandwich report, with 72% purchasing a chicken sandwich away from home in the past two months.
This trend isn’t flying away any time soon, and offering a twist on a classic chicken sandwich can be a way for operators to differentiate themselves from the competition. Check out these three tips for creating a craveable chicken sandwich.
Capitalize on chicken flavor trends
It’s no secret that classic buttermilk fried chicken is immensely popular with consumers. Many restaurants are using this as a starting point and creating new offerings with marinades and spices or by combining different ethnic cuisines. In addition to buttermilk fried chicken, Nashville hot chicken has been trending upward. Incorporating different cuisines in sandwich form appeals to consumers with a variety of tastes.
Additional flavor trends for chicken sandwiches, according to MenuMonitor, that operators can take into consideration include:
- Sriracha (+46.9%): Bareburger, a chain with 37 units in the United States, offers up its new Sriracha Chicken sandwich, with grilled lemon chicken, aged cheddar, green leaf lettuce, pickled red onions, sweet pickles and sriracha mayo on 8-grain toast.
- Strawberry (+28.6%): At Apple Spice Junction in Salt Lake City, diners can order the Strawberry Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which features a grilled chicken breast with sweet strawberries, Vidalia onion mayonnaise and swiss cheese on sourdough. It’s a salty-sweet flavor explosion.
- Havarti (+25%): This unique cheese is making waves. At Atlanta Bread Company, they keep it simple to let this ingredient shine on the Chargrilled Chicken Pesto Panini, which features all-natural chicken, Havarti cheese and tomatoes.
- Poblano (+21%): Consumes love their spice, and at McAlister’s Deli, that’s what they’ll get when they order the Spicy Southwest Chicken Sandwich. This nationwide sandwich chain’s offering includes grilled chicken, guacamole, fire-roasted corn and poblano relish, pepper jack cheese and chipotle ranch, served on ciabatta bread.
Tap into health concerns
As more research comes out about antibiotics and hormones in meat, consumers have expressed a preference for all-natural options. In fact, 72% of consumers say they think natural poultry is healthier, 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report, while 50% say they think it tastes better. What’s morel 41% say they’d be willing to pay more for chicken or turkey labeled natural, bumping up the profit potential for sandwiches featuring these proteins.
Although many restaurants are taking notice and offering natural options, not all of them highlight this on the menu. As consumers continue to express a preference for all-natural chicken, restaurant operators should consider calling out this information.
Calling out quality food on menus to increase sales
Consumers are demanding quality ingredients, which can translate to a profitable opportunity for restaurants. The Technomic Sandwich report found that 79% of consumers were willing to pay more for sandwiches that feature premium or high-quality ingredients. That same report revealed that 84% of consumers consider meat quality to be important or extremely important to create a great sandwich. Including ingredients that consumers associate with quality, such as all-natural chicken or premium toppings such as avocado, specialty cheeses or unique sauces, can entice diners seeking out an elevated offering.
While many foodservice chicken offerings still have additives, restaurant operators can better cater to the preferences of their customer bases by choosing to source all-natural poultry. Consumers are interested in premium ingredients in sandwiches, and providing these offerings can create more profit potential.
This post is sponsored by Pierce Chicken