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KFC launches new sandwich as chicken wars heat up

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KFC unveiled an extra crispy chicken sandwich on Thursday as it seeks to compete with a craze kicked off by rival Popeyes in 2019. 

KFC’s new $3.99 menu item, which will be served on a brioche bun and come with the option of spicy mayo, comes just days after other fast-food rivals grabbed headlines for their own poultry additions.

Owned by Yum Brands Inc, KFC told Reuters its Crispy Colonel Sandwich was not “living up to our legacy as experts in fried chicken.”

Popeyes — owned by Restaurant Brands International — sparked the chicken wars in 2019 with a $3.99 sandwich that was so popular it was sold out at many restaurants. That prompted other chains to seek to compete, including burger joints like McDonald’s.

The Golden Arches this week said it will launch three new versions of a crispy chicken sandwich in February. And Shake Shack this week announced a limited edition Korean style chicken sandwich that will be available in its US stores through April 5.

The Korean-style Fried Chick’n will be paired with Korean style fries, the company said.

Burger King, also owned by Restaurant Brands International, may also join the fray as it has been testing a “hand breaded, crispy chicken” sandwich in Arizona, according to restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski.

KFC’s new sandwich, which was tested in Orlando last year, is a double-breaded filet that’s crispier. It will come with the Colonel’s classic or spicy mayo and thicker pickles on a brioche bun.

“They tested pickles with eight variations of thickness and brines before we landed on our pickle,” chief marketing officer of KFC US Andrea Zahumensky said in a statement. “And for our perfect brioche bun, we collaborated with six different bakeries and tested more than ten formula revisions in order to find the right one to hug the larger-than-ever filet in just the right way.”

It will be made available starting Thursday in select cities Thursday, including Chicago, Kansas City, Louisville, Portland and San Francisco. By the end of February all 4,000 KFC locations in the U.S. will have the $3.99 sandwich, the company said.

“KFC has had a good year with same store sales that have been better than the average chain stores’ sales,” Kalinowski said. 

But the 68 year-old chain has plenty of competition — and it was knocked off of its pedestal as the dominant chicken chain a while ago by Chick Fil A, Kalinowski added.