Leveraging Chicken to the Max 

Published: June 4, 2024

Written by Nation’s Restaurant News

Brunch-boosting chicken and waffles and traffic-driving spicy fried chicken sandwiches are driving sales. 

No matter an operator’s channel, segment or type of operation, promoting chicken is a path to improved profitability. No other protein offers a better combination of taste and versatility plus a knack for exciting customers. Now is an opportune time for operators to fully realize chicken sales by exploring new menu niches and flavor sensations.

Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches with spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors rank in second place on the National Restaurant Association’s 10 Hot Trends of 2023 list. A huge success story, they burst into prominence during the so-called fried chicken sandwich wars, a wave of new product innovation, and fierce competition among quick-service restaurants that began a few years ago. By revealing the high sales potential of creative chicken items they have had a lasting impact throughout the industry.

Recent examples include Chick-fil-A’s Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich, the brand’s first-ever seasonal twist of its original chicken sandwich, and KFC’s Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich.

Research shows that nearly 60% of consumers pick a chicken sandwich based on the product, compared to 21% who choose based on brand, and 20% based on price, according to data from Revenue Management Solutions.

Over time, chicken competition has only become more varied and flavorful. There are now creative takes on wraps, nuggets, tenders and boneless and bone-in wings along with sandwiches. Even the quick-service Taco Bell Mexican chain got into the act with a one-market test of Crispy Chicken Nuggets.

All-Day Appeal

Consumers crave flavorful chicken all day. The gamut of opportunities ranges from chicken biscuits in the morning to Southern-style and spicy chicken sandwiches at lunch to chicken entrées in traditional and global flavor profiles at dinner. Not to be overlooked are bone-in and boneless chicken wings, and chicken nuggets for appetizers and snacks.

When it comes to breakfast, unique handheld items, including chicken and waffle sandwiches, rank in the top three breakfast daypart trends of the What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast by the National Restaurant Association. Also noteworthy is the fact that 51% of consumers seek high-protein options at the morning meal, according to the Datassential Breakfast Keynote Report, May 2023. That is a role that versatile chicken biscuits, bowls, and entrées are eminently suited to fill.

Off-Premises Opportunity

The versatility and operational ease of chicken items makes them ideal for takeout and delivery service, still in high demand by consumers. In the National Restaurant Association State of the Restaurant Industry 2023 survey, 55% of consumers consider takeout and delivery “essential,” and 66% are “more likely to order food for takeout than they were in 2019.”

The Case for Value-Added Products

Although some restaurants promote hand-breaded chicken items, many others may lack the labor to rely on hand breading. In fact, 62% of operators report being understaffed in the State of the Restaurant Industry 2023 survey. They may also be put off by the mess and consistency issues of the hand-breading process. The solution is using high-quality, value-added chicken products to reduce the amount of scratch prep.

The array of value-added products includes uncooked and fully cooked breaded and unbreaded chicken filets, tenderloins, patties, boneless and bone-in wings, nuggets and strips, as well as fully cooked and presliced ingredient chicken that is ready to use to top a salad or mix into pasta.

Tyson Red Label® chicken products feature proprietary breading, marinade and flavor profiles that consistently look and taste like scratch. On-trend flavors and styles include hot and spicy, wood-fire seasoned, grilled, fajita and tempura battered. Of course, it is a simple matter for operators to apply their own globally inspired seasonings, sauces and toppings to uncooked or fully cooked chicken products to create signature items.

Tyson Red Label® chicken products help drive sales volume with value-added chicken items that ensure a consistent eating experience with maximum profitability, ease of preparation and efficiency. These products score well on flavor, aroma and juiciness even when tested in a simulated delivery environment, according to 2023 Tyson Foods Primary Consumer Research. In addition, Tyson Red Label® brand has a unique tiered pricing strategy that allows operators to purchase products at a level that fits their needs.

Learn more about how Tyson Red Label® brand can help your kitchen leverage the chicken menu opportunity.

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