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McDonald’s officially joins the chicken sandwich wars

The chain will start selling three versions of its Crispy Chicken Sandwich on Feb. 24.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's

At this point, it’s getting easier to list the restaurant chains that have not upgraded their chicken sandwiches lately.

McDonald’s on Monday officially added its name to the growing roster of restaurant companies that have developed a brand-new chicken sandwich over the past 15 months.

The Chicago-based burger giant—which has been telegraphing its intent to release an upgraded sandwich for years—plans to debut a trio of new chicken sandwiches starting on Feb. 24. The line will be anchored by the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which features a white meat chicken filet topped with pickles on a buttered potato roll.

There is also a Spicy Chicken Sandwich that will feature Spicy Pepper Sauce and a Deluxe Chicken Sandwich featuring lettuce, tomatoes and mayo.

“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear, and we know they’re craving more chicken options,” Linda VanGosen, vice president of menu innovation, said in a statement.

McDonald’s has been testing upgraded chicken products for years, at least in part in a bid to introduce a better competitor to rival Chick-fil-A. The Atlanta-based chicken sandwich chain’s growth has skyrocketed for years. It is now the nation’s third-largest restaurant chain after McDonald’s and Starbucks, according to Technomic, and is larger than either of McDonald’s two more traditional competitors, Burger King and Wendy’s.

Popeyes more than a year ago, however, got a big jump on the chicken sandwich train with a version that proved to be remarkably popular—ushering in an era of chicken-sandwich development that has consumed the limited-service restaurant business. Numerous chains, from BurgerFi to KFC and including Sonic and several others, have recently introduced chicken sandwiches in the months since.

“Developing a reputation for great chicken represents one of our highest aspirations,” McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger told investors in November.

But he also noted that the company’s overall chicken strategy will go beyond just one chicken sandwich, saying that it will be “a multi-tiered strategy” around the world to become a go-to restaurant for chicken.

“What’s clear is that none of our markets are ‘one chicken sandwich away’ from achieving this goal,” Erlinger said. “We have to take a broader approach, one where chicken is a platform, not a single product.”

McDonald’s has suggested that its tests of the chicken sandwich performed well, with Erlinger noting that the sandwich best expectations on key metrics. “We believe it’s going to jump-start our chicken journey, build our chicken credentials and get people to start looking at us differently,” he said.

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