Will the Chicken Sandwich War Continue into 2020?

February 2, 2020
Will the Chicken Sandwich War Continue into 2020?

For the fast food industry, 2019 will go down as the year of the Chicken Sandwich War.

It started on August 12, 2019 when Popeyes introduced a new chicken sandwich.  What first appeared to be another in a long line of additions to fast food menus quickly escalated.  Fueled by several tweets back and forth between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, plus critics and others raving about the new sandwich, Popeyes experienced long lines and large increases in sales.

Unfortunately, Popeyes quickly ran out of chicken sandwiches nationally.  The demand was too great for its supply chain to handle.  Restaurants stopped serving the chicken sandwiches and waited for their supply chain to catch up.

On National Sandwich Day (Sunday, November 3, 2019) Popeyes re-introduced its chicken sandwich.  This, coupled with Chick-fil-A social media promoting National Sandwich Day that happened to fall on a Sunday when its restaurants are closed, created quite a stir.  Customers flocked to Popeyes to try out the chicken sandwich.  Many had missed the opportunity during the original introduction.

It appears that the Chicken Sandwich Wars will continue into 2020.  Chicken sandwiches are still growing in popularity, and competitors such as McDonald’s will be entering the fray with new chicken sandwiches.

Video Spotlight: McDonald’s, Popeyes, Chick-Fil-A And The Chicken Sandwich Wars

This post is based on the Houston Chronicle article, How 2019 became the Year of the Chicken Sandwich, by Emily Heil, December 24, 2019; the Business Insider article, The fast-food menu item of the year is the Popeyes chicken sandwich, by Kate Taylor, December 28, 2019, and the YouTube video, McDonald’s, Popeyes, Chick-Fil-A And The Chicken Sandwich Wars, by CNBC, December 12, 2019. Image source: John Lund/Drew Kelly/Blend Images LLC.

Discussion Questions:

1. Was the 2019 chicken sandwich shortage good for Popeyes?

Guidance: Generally, you don’t think of a shortage in a supply chain as being positive.  However, in this case, it helped generate a lot of excitement for its new sandwich.  It the company and its supply chain can keep supplying chicken sandwiches, it may turn out to be a net positive shortage.

2. What operations management issues will fast food restaurants face because of the Chicken Sandwich War?

Guidance: One of the biggest issues will be forecasting.  Demand for chicken has been growing in the fast food industry.  Plus, for Popeyes, was some of this demand the novelty of the new chicken sandwich?  Will its popularity continue or will it die-out after a short time?  This makes it difficult to accurately forecast demand.

For the industry as a whole, it appears that many organizations are searching for new products to add or compete against competitor’s offerings.  This will make supply chains more complex, as well as making it more difficult to provide products.  Wait times at fast food restaurants have been increasing as well.  The fast food industry as a whole is working to reduce waiting times.


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