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How Popeyes, McDonald’s won in the 2021 Chicken War

From the start of 2021, the chicken sandwich war between the fast food giants captured the attention of consumers.

A seemingly endless batch of poultry-themed menu items from Burger King (QSR), Wendy’s (WEN), McDonald’s (MCD), KFC and even Taco Bell made a lot of headlines – and, in the end, , has attracted many customers.

According to data intelligence platform, the big bet on these entries paid off, but Popeyes (QSR) remained in the lead. The restaurant chain first ditched its chicken sandwich entry in 2019 to challenge Chick-fil-A to its own game.

“The data suggests that chicken sandwiches continue to benefit quick-service restaurants,” RJ Hottovy, head of analytical research at, told Yahoo Finance.

“Most chains are working to get back to pre-pandemic pedestrian traffic levels, but Popeyes has remained well ahead of its 2019 visitation trends into 2021,” he added.

The analyst noted that the boost supported Popeye’s claims that he had reached new customers through his salty sandwich. During the year, the chain’s drops in foot traffic have been fairly modest, according to Hottovy.

For Chick-fil-A, the excitement around her chicken sandwich may have subsided, the data suggests. Hottovy said he “continues to monitor his trends in pre-pandemic visits”; However, 2019 was “a bumper year for its chicken sandwiches,” which makes it hard to beat.

On the flip side, customers seem to enjoy Chik-fil-A’s chicken sandwich more, according to a survey by restaurant review aggregator Merchant Centric. Between January and June of this year, respondents got Chik-fil-A with an average rating of 4.39 stars, compared to Popeye’s 3.39.

For newcomers like McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC, the almost 2-year wait to bring a chicken sandwich to the table might be worth it, according to

The Golden Arches launched their chicken sandwich at the end of February with three different versions: Crispy, Spicy and Crispy Deluxe. It saw foot traffic increase slightly the week of March 1 after the debut, down just 17% from 2019 levels. That’s compared to foot traffic down 29.6% the week of February 15. before launch.

McDonald’s appears to have been able to keep the momentum going with other efforts besides new menu items like its new growth strategy, including the three Ds: digital, delivery and drive-thru. Foot traffic at McDonald’s fell only 3% in the week of December 6, 2021.

Taco Bell (YUM) unveiled a unique entry to the war with its Chicken Sandwich Taco the same week as McDonald’s. The chain saw foot traffic down 34.9% from 2019 the week before, which climbed to -27.0% the week of March 1, 2021. Visits subsequently fell only 10.8% the week of March 15, 2021. As of December 6, foot traffic is only reduced by 4.9%.

KFC released a quarter-pound sandwich in late February for $ 3.99, which may also have given foot traffic a boost from -37% the week of March 22 to -23.9 % the week of March 8, 2021. During the week of December 6, foot traffic dropped by 17%.

Meanwhile, Burger King released its starter, the “Ch’King” at the end of May, a hand-breaded chicken fillet topped with Burger King’s mayonnaise-based sauce, as well as pickles on a brioche bun. potatoes.

Following the post, foot traffic was down 4.2% in the first week of June, down from -13.1% before it was posted. The momentum may not have sustained however, especially as consumers are spooked by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant. As of December 6, foot traffic at Burger King was down 10.7%.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email him at [email protected]

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