The “Chicken Wars” began back in 2019 when Popeyes sold out of their highly-anticipated, new fried chicken sandwich. Debates over Popeyes versus Chick-fil-A ensued while Popeyes scrambled to get additional inventory out to franchises nationwide.
What happened next? Chick-fil-A stayed popular. KFC and others tried to compete, but it seems no matter what new and improved recipes pop out of quick-service test kitchens, Chick-fil-A continues to hold claim to the honor of maker of America’s favorite chicken sandwich.
Popeyes has the second-favorite sandwich but by a difference of 63% from Chick-fil-A. We see a slightly higher preference for sandwiches from Popeyes and KFC among those 55 and older. Millennials are rooting hard for Chick-fil-A’s original.
Even though Chick-fil-A is preferred among all fast food eaters, those who only eat fast food occasionally make up a greater percentage of Popeyes’ sandwich lovers.
McDonald’s sandwich lovers stand out when it comes to brand loyalty and people who think KFC’s takes the chicken for best competing sandwich are the least brand-loyal customers.
What’s interesting about the battle over the chicken sandwich is that, while Chick-fil-A’s sandwich is still the most popular, favorability toward the restaurant has seen a gradual decline.
For Popeyes, year-over-year favorability didn’t change between 2019 and 2020, but it did change for Chick-fil-A. The 365-day aggregate favorability rating for Chick-fil-A dropped from 60% in 2019 to 55% in 2020.
Per CivicScience’s monthly tracking, while Chick-fil-A’s favorability dropped, favorability toward Popeyes and KFC both rose month over month to notable levels.
The shifts in overall favorability are key to understanding the “Chicken Wars.” Chick-fil-A’s sandwich is the favorite right now, but QSRs diversifying their menus and experimenting with recipes is clearly appealing to the broader market.