Fast-growing Chick-fil-A, under assault from both smaller and larger rivals, is testing a new chicken sandwich in the Carolinas this fall.
The Atlanta-based fast-food chain said this week that it is testing a new Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich, which features an original Chick-fil-A filet drizzled with honey, topped with pimento cheese and served on a warm, toasted bun with mild pickled jalapenos.
The company has been working on the concept for more than a year. It also represents something of a rarity. “This is the first variation of the Original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich we’ve tested as a seasonal item,” chef Stuart Tracy, one of Chick-fil-A’s senior culinary developers, said in a statement.
The market for boneless chicken has been suddenly flush with competitors both large and small in recent months, much of it gunning for Chick-fil-A’s traditional leadership.
The most notable example has been Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which generated substantial sales beginning last year when it introduced its own chicken sandwich. But both McDonald’s and KFC are working to develop their own version. Several smaller concepts have been introducing their own versions, such as the Florida-based Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken and the New York City-based Atomic Wings.
Chick-fil-A has been on an absolute tear for years. It has doubled in size over the past five years, vaulting it to the third spot on the Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report behind McDonald’s and Starbucks.
The more recent market introductions of new sandwiches and market tests of upgraded chicken products could put more pressure on the concept to defend its turf.
The Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich will be tested for a limited time in the Upstate, S.C., region and around Asheville, N.C. The test started earlier this week.
The test follows the seasonal Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich, which used a grilled filet. The company said that the Honey Pepper sandwich “won in a landslide” when compared with other prospective sandwiches during some customer taste tests.
The new sandwich test also follows the introduction of a new brownie and coffee drinks to its national menu earlier this month.