Battle of the Giant Fast Food Fried Chicken Titans: McDonald's versus Chick-Fil-A: Chicken Sandwich Edition

McDonald’s has a chicken sandwich problem, namely Chick-Fil-A’s signature fried chicken sandwich. Yesterday, the board of the National Owners Association (NOA) sent an email to McDonald’s calling for the chain to create a southern style chicken sandwich to compete with Chick-fil-A. NOA was created in 2018 and consists of more than 400 U.S.-based McDonald’s franchisees. The self-funded owner’s advocacy group aims to work with McDonald’s to represent US owner/operator interests.
Recently we reported on the announcement that in 2018, Chick-fil-A made $10.46 billion in national sales, making it the third-largest chain in the US by sales. Last year, on average, Chick-fil-A locations brought in $4.6 million in annual sales, that’s up from $4.2 million in 2017 — more than any other fast-food chain in America. In 2018, the average McDonald’s location made $2.8 million. Currently, McDonald’s has approximate 14,000 restaurants in the U.S., while Chick-fil-A operates 1,989 stand-alone restaurants and 363 licensed units.
Other than its efficient drive thru operation, Chick-Fil-A owes quite a bit of its success to its flagship crispy chicken sandwich. Though the company has not revealed how many sandwiches it sold last year, the sandwich was Chik-Fil-A’s highest selling main meal item. On a side note, in 2019 Chick-fil-A ranked highest of all fast-food chains on the American Customer Satisfaction Index according to 23,000 customers; McDonald’s ranks at the bottom of the list.
Currently, McDonald’s offers Chicken McNuggets and the McChicken sandwich. However, the NOA board wrote in the email that McDonald’s doesn’t compete in the premium chicken sandwich category, with either a grilled or crispy option. McDonald’s did offer a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich between 2005-2015, which was similar to the sandwich served at Chick-fil-A. The National Owners Association thinks that with a few updates, the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich could a contender. The NOA wants McDonald’s to introduce a revamped chicken sandwich in the South as a test market, then fast-track it to national locations. “A Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s should be our top priority,” the National Owners Association board said in an email addressed to fellow operators on Wednesday. “You may not have Chick Fil A’s in your market or to the degree they have them in the southeast, but they are coming,” the board said in the email. “And they don’t discount.” The board wrote that the results of McDonald’s U.S. Southeast market “should concern everyone.” According to leaked documents shared with Business Insider, McDonald’s is already planning to launch a Spicy BBQ Sandwich and Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders in mid-September.
A few other chains have taken note of and are responding to Chick-Fil-A’s sandwich success. Later this summer, Buffalo Wild Wings is rolling out two new fried-chicken sandwiches: the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich and the Southern Chicken Sandwich. Cracker Barrel is also discussing adding some new fried chicken entrees.
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