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Chicken sandwich wars

With so many chains introducing new chicken sandwiches, we decided to test some of the biggest. The first one: Popeyes.

If the last year was dominated by any one menu item, it would have to be the fried chicken sandwich. And it hasn’t stopped—new versions keep coming out of chain restaurant kitchens into 2021. It’s almost more notable to cite the operators that didn’t introduce a new chicken sandwich in the past months.

It all started with Popeyes back towards the end of 2019, when its fried chicken sandwich caused a social media frenzy and generated long lines of customers eager to try it. Other chains soon wanted a piece of the action, but it wasn’t until May, 2020 that KFC entered the fray with a test of its upgraded crispy chicken sandwich.

The launches only accelerated after that, with dozens of chains now touting new iterations. This tsunami has been dubbed “the chicken sandwich wars.”

It was time for Restaurant Business, with help from friends at sister companies Technomic and Foodservice Director, to put the sandwiches to the test. Far be it from us to declare a victor in the chicken sandwich wars, but we wanted to see for ourselves what all the hoopla was about.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be gathering at lunchtime to taste and compare fried chicken sandwiches from different operators. We started with Popeyes—the chain that set the benchmark for all that followed. We will continue with a different chicken sandwich every week for the next four weeks after.

The judging criteria is straightforward. Taste is most important, but we’ll also evaluate texture (crispiness and juiciness of the chicken); the components (how the bun, pickles, chicken and sauce complement each other); to-go quality (how the sandwich held up through delivery or takeout) and each sandwich’s value in relation to its cost.

Our first taste test is now ready to view. See if you agree with our team of opinionated eaters.


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