KFC is starting off 2021 by entering the chicken sandwich wars.
The latest menu addition from the Yum Brands chain will replace the Crispy Colonel sandwich in an effort to gain an edge over its rivals.
The contest kicked off more than a year ago with the launch of Popeyes' version of the classic item, which has crispy chicken on a buttery brioche bun with either mayo or spicy Cajun sauce. Since its debut, the sandwich has helped spur double-digit same-store sales growth for the Restaurant Brands International chain every quarter.
McDonald's will step into the ring next month. All are trying to steal some of the momentum Chick-fil-A has seen in recent years as it became the third-largest restaurant chain by sales, behind McDonald's and Starbucks.
Starting Thursday, KFC's sandwich is available in select restaurants in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Louisville, Kentucky, Sacramento, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. By the end of February, it will be available nationwide in all 4,000 of KFC's U.S. restaurants. McDonald's three chicken sandwiches will debut Feb. 24 across the U.S.
In the spring, KFC tested the sandwich in Orlando, Florida, and the item nearly doubled its original sales projections.
"Many customers hadn't considered KFC as a part of the chicken sandwich conversation, but anyone who tastes this sandwich will know, without a doubt, that we're playing to win," said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer of KFC U.S.
The sandwich consists of a quarter-pound chicken breast filet that's been double breaded, a toasted brioche bun, pickles and either mayo or spicy sauce. KFC's version is similar in ingredients to those of Popeyes, McDonald's and Chick-fil-A. All of them use a breaded filet, brioche bun and pickles. The primary difference is the breading and frying method, which affect texture and flavor.
Shares of Yum, which has a market value of $31.8 billion, have risen 3% in the last year. While KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have recovered quickly in the U.S., its international locations have taken longer to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.