Not Winging It: More Chicken Innovation, Higher Sales

Posted in Millennials on September 28, 2021

336_erik-mclean-UBtRdqWUbzc-unsplashThe chicken sandwich wars have catapulted a menu staple to new heights of popularity and profitability. America’s insatiable appetite for chicken sandwich variations and a young market hungry for bold new taste adventures have dovetailed to create sky-high demand for chicken innovation. As a result, the stakes for quick-service chains clawing their way up the pecking order of chicken sandwich concepts continues to rise.

Thirty-eight percent of consumers surveyed express interest in trying chicken entrees made with new/unique flavors and sauces, according to the market research firm Technomic.1 That percentage rises to 41% for Gen Zers and 47% for millennials.1 Demand for chicken entrees with global ingredients and flavors hovers around the same height.1

Enter Taco Bell’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. The national rollout of the new menu item, which consists of all-white-meat fried chicken marinated in jalapeno buttermilk, seasoned with Mexican spices and rolled in a crunchy tortilla chip coating, signals the quick service Mexican chain’s entry in the chicken sandwich wars.

But the dish has also managed to get people chirping about whether it is, in fact, a sandwich or a taco. Served in a taco-shaped flatbread, it looks like both. Taco Bell is leveraging this debate and serving up a savvy bit of marketing with television ads featuring two college debate teams vying to decide the matter during a Georgia vs. Clemson primetime college football game.

As Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s global chief food innovation officer, explained: “Our new crispy chicken innovation is far from the average chicken sandwich, and we’re certain it will get a spicy reaction from sandwich and taco fans alike. Even the masterminds from our test kitchen couldn’t decide if it was more taco or sandwich, which is why we’re excited to bring in the debate team experts to have some fun.”2

Flying the Coop: Wing Zone Rebrands for Soaring Sales

Differentiation is the key to standing out in the blur of the battlefield where chicken sandwiches peacock for the most attention. Chicken dishes don’t sell on a wing and a prayer; it takes strategy to make sales soar. (Along with delicious recipes, it took a lot of scratching and pecking between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A on social media to launch the chicken sandwich wars, after all.)

Wing Zone’s strategy is to broaden its appeal with a rebranding that positions it as the go-to quick-service chain for sports-minded consumers who are likely to crave wings any day of the week, not just game day.

“We still have the sports aspect,” said David Bloom, the chain’s chief development and operating officer, “but it’s an everyday person having fun playing flag football and hanging out with friends, rather than the NFL. Wings are getting bigger as an everyday product, rather than just a party food.”

Designed for faster service, with a pre-baking system that accelerates the frying process (the new tagline is “Flavor Really Fast”), Wing Zone hopes to boost sales volume and grow from 38 units to 250 units by 2025.3

While the chain will continue to emphasize delivery, the in-store experience will be elevated with selfie-inspiring interactive murals, customized mood-boosting music playlists and scent diffusers to stimulate tastebuds.

At Mondelēz International Foodservice, were committed to menu innovation that helps boost sales for all segments of the foodservice industry. Whether youre looking for inspired dishes, scrumptious desserts or inventive beverages, were here to help develop your recipe for success. To find out what our signature combination of culinary expertise and brand excellence can do for your foodservice operation, reach out below.


1 Technomic, Consumer Trend Reports Sample Slides, 2021

2 Jennings, Lisa, “Taco Bell sparks debate with rollout of new Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco,” Nation’s Restaurant News, August 26, 2021

3 Jennings, Lisa, “Why wait for the big game? New Wing Zone design is for the everyday wings-and-sports fan,” Nation’s Restaurant News, August 27, 2021

Topics in this article

Related Articles

Right Bites: Restaurants Rework Menus for Snack-Happy Market

As small bites replace large meals, restaurant operations adjust menus for all-day snacking. Explore key data behind the latest trends in small plates.

Oh Dough They Didn't! Upstart Pizza Chains Cook Up New Recipes for Success

As a versatile staple, pizza continues to power sales. Lean how fast-casual restaurant chains Pie Five and 7Pie are taking pizza innovation to new levels.

Next Course: 2023 Foodservice Tech Trends

Explore why two foodservice trends--off-premise restaurant formats and artificial intelligence systems--are poised to rise to new heights in 2023.

Hot Sellers: Summer Flavor Forecast Calls for Wave of Appetite-Whetting Trends

Summer sizzles with seasonal staples and trending twists on old favorites. Explore flavor forecasts from Datassential and EatingWell for summer menu ideas.

All About Newstalgia in Desserts

Tweaking familiar dishes to include a new flavor or format could be the menu addition that will pique consumer interest and help increase sales.

No Sustain, No Gain: Foodservice Feeds Bottom Line with Sustainability and Wellness

Sustainability has become a core catalyst for foodservice success. Explore how True Food Kitchen and Mondelēz International exemplify the sustainability trend.

Smaller, Faster, Smarter: Automated Restaurant Formats Feed the Future of Foodservice

Sweetgreen, Chili's and Panera are adopting lean, automated restaurant formats. Learn how automation is transforming the restaurant industry.

Beverages and Desserts Fuel Flavor Inspiration

Inspired by classic beverage elements, operators are creating new dessert menu items — as well as drinks that feature dessert flavors.

Metaverse Measures Up, Major Restaurant Brands Dig In

Top restaurant chains are hungry to tap the promotional potential of the metaverse. Explore Jimmy John's and Pizza Hut's ambitious metaverse initiatives.

Va-Va-Vending: Technology Transforms Vending Machines into 24/7 Restaurants

No longer just a source for prepackaged snacks, vending machines are now purveyors of gourmet-quality meals. Explore two revolutionary vending machines.

Join the Let’s Chat Snacks Community

Be the first to know when we drop new articles, trends and insights, with updates delivered directly to your inbox. Plus, you’ll get an insider perspective on all things foodservice, carefully curated to help you grow your business.