No doubt that chicken sandwiches have gained a lot of attention over the past few years as more chicken restaurant concepts open and more chicken sandwiches appear on menus. (A craveable chicken sandwich and loyalty are McDonald's "two most important things" on its 2021 to-do list.)
The question is though, have these sandwich sensations knocked burgers from their long-standing reign as the top entrée item ordered at U.S. restaurants? That’s a hard “no,” says The NPD Group.
Billions and Billions Served
Last year burgers were included in 13.5% of all restaurant orders, which translated to 7 billion servings of burgers. Chicken sandwiches (breaded and grilled) were included in 6.7% of all restaurant orders in the U.S, which amounts to 3.5 billion servings, according to NPD, which tracks daily how U.S. consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets.
Although chicken sandwiches are #2 in the sandwich pecking order, these sandwiches are gaining ground as more restaurants, especially quick service restaurants, add them to their menus or enhance the chicken sandwich offerings they already have on the menu. Servings of breaded chicken sandwiches, which are the most popular with consumers and what set off the war, increased by 8% in the year ending December compared to year ago. This gain in servings is contrasted with the double-digit decline in total restaurant visits in the year ending December 2020 versus year ago. Most breaded chicken sandwiches are ordered from quick service restaurants (QSR). There were 2.5 billion breaded chicken sandwiches ordered from QSRs last year, up 9% from a year ago. About 65% of the U.S. population ordered a breaded chicken sandwich from a QSR in the last six months.
“No matter who wins the chicken sandwich wars or which chicken sandwich is competing with the burger, operators who put chicken sandwiches or burgers or both on their menus are headed in the right direction,” says David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “These sandwiches have always been and will always be a customer favorite.”