It seems that a battle is brewing in the fast-food henhouse. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), eager to ride the recent popularity of crispy chicken sandwiches, is rolling out three new products in the category in the very near future. The company confirmed to Reuters today that it will introduce three variants of its existing chicken sandwich -- classic, deluxe, and spicy -- on Feb. 24.
These new offerings comprise a filet of white meat chicken served on a buttered potato roll. They will come with crinkle-cut pickles.
The stakes in the chicken game were raised in 2019 when the Popeyes chain, owned by McDonald's rival Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR), rolled out its first-ever chicken sandwich to much fanfare. Diners snapped it up, and it became one of the hot fast-food items of that year. Restaurant Brands International's fundamentals benefited handsomely from its popularity.
The strength of chicken fast-food menu items has endured, even with the severe downturn in restaurant attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the supply constraints it's engendered.
If successful, the three chicken sandwich variants could spur McDonald's to develop new offerings based on the fowl. Last November, Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA, mused that its sandwich could serve as the foundation for what he termed a "chicken platform."
"Our chicken-only competitors here and abroad have strong brand equity and credibility," he was quoted by Reuters as saying then. "Developing a reputation for great chicken represents one of our highest aspirations."
Investors might consider this move to be a case of too little, too late, as it comes more than a year after the Popeyes splashy debut. McDonald's shares fell by over 2% in the wake of today's announcement, a steeper fall than the 1.5% suffered by the S&P 500 index.