Consumers can’t throw a stone without hitting a restaurant that offers a take on the crispy chicken sandwich, and the trend doesn’t seem to be losing much steam, even after several years of sandwich wars.

What’s on the horizon for chicken sandwiches in the coming year? What can brands do to stay relevant and attract new customers without losing their base? Here are a few trends you’ll want to consider if you hope to remain competitive in the chicken sandwich arena.


 Variations on a Theme

Although Popeye’s wasn’t the first to create the fried chicken sandwich, everyone remembers when it dropped in 2019, to the public consternation of Chick-fil-A. 

It’s hard to say whether the sandwich itself or the social media standoff had more to do with its popularity, but the Popeye’s version, featuring a marinated, battered, and fried chicken breast on a brioche bun topped with mayo and pickles, has certainly become the industry standard.

A little more than four years later, it seems like everyone has a chicken sandwich on the menu, and jockeying for consumer attention has taken many forms (remember the KFC Cheetos chicken sandwich?). Today, restaurateurs seem to be leaning into the consumer demand for variety by offering a range of flavor profiles.

Buffalo and spicy chicken options are practically a given, while flavors like truffle, parmesan, and Caesar seem to be aimed at more mature palates. New chicken flavors and sandwich recipes designed to ensure something for every diner are on the menu for 2024.


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Diversity of Ingredients

Copies of Popeye’s Classic Chicken Sandwich have practically become ubiquitous in certain types of restaurants, from chicken shacks to fast food to diner-style sit-downs to more upscale establishments. 

While current trends seem to involve different flavors of chicken and breading, some restaurants are opting instead for a singular chicken base and then adding variation through other ingredients.

One of the easiest and most obvious solutions is to play on the dipping sauce craze by letting diners choose one or more sauces they can add to the sandwich for flavor customization. 

Ranch, BBQ, buffalo sauce, and hot honey are all shoe-ins for success, but inspired options like pesto, sriracha mayo, and sweet chili sauce could add unexpected appeal, as could secret sauces tied to a specific brand.

Innovative topping combinations are another way to pack a flavor punch and ensure variety that caters to diverse customer preferences. While it’s hard to argue with the perfection of a buttery brioche bun, the next frontier is likely to delve into different bread options that change both the flavor and texture of the sandwich.


Are Wings Taking Center Stage?

Although chicken sandwiches remain popular, pundits are predicting a migration back to chicken wings in the coming year. This trend aligns perfectly with the growing demand for gourmet dipping sauces.

Notably, Popeye’s added wings to their menu at the end of 2023, and they could be headed for a repeat of the success they garnered with their trendsetting chicken sandwich. Innovative flavors for both wings and sauces are likely to take center stage in this arena, which is just starting to heat up.


Related: From Wings to Nuggets: A Look at Chicken Consumption Trends


The Chicken Dance

Brands that want to get it right will have to lean into customization while simultaneously striving to keep the ordering experience simple and efficient. 

This could mean offering chicken sandwiches and wings alike but starting with a simple base and then creating a lineup of toppings and sauces that support a “build your own” model for ordering. This allows for a streamlined process while providing the variety consumers expect.


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