- Burger King will enter the chicken sandwich wars on June 3 with the Ch'King.
- The burger chain is trying to set itself apart from the pack by breading its chicken by hand.
- To celebrate the nationwide launch, customers who order the Ch'King on the Burger King app or online will receive a free Whopper in addition to the chicken sandwich.
Burger King will enter the chicken sandwich wars in June with the Ch'King, its take on the trendy menu item.
The Restaurant Brands International chain is following in the footsteps of sister chain Popeyes, which launched its own blockbuster sandwich in August 2019. For 1½ years, the fried chicken chain has reported double-digit sales growth, propelled by the popularity of the sandwich. Since then, rival fast-food chains, including McDonald's and Yum Brands' KFC, have launched their own versions.
Burger King is trying to set itself apart from the pack by breading its chicken by hand, a step that takes time, training and new equipment. Ellie Doty, chief marketing officer of Burger King North America, said the chain took two years perfecting the recipe and figuring out to make the process work for its restaurants.
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"We really took our time to get it right, to get the reps in at the restaurant and make sure that every restaurant had their hand-breading station set up properly," Doty told CNBC.
The Ch'King launch also comes as the country faces a chicken shortage, fueled in part by the chicken sandwich wars and a lack of poultry processing workers. Prices for chicken breast, which is often used in chicken sandwiches, are soaring. The Wall Street Journal reported that KFC restaurants are limiting sales of its chicken sandwich in response. Doty said Burger King isn't immune to macroeconomic factors but it took steps to make sure that its supply chain could handle pressure.
"In taking the time to get this right, we also took the time to make sure that we have a very robust supply chain that is set up for the main scenario that we're predicting as well as others that could happen," she said.
Doty said the Ch'King's name was inspired by a customer who tried the menu item during the testing phase and said the chain should change its name to Chicken King.
To celebrate the nationwide launch on June 3, customers who order the Ch'King on the Burger King app or online will also receive a free Whopper. The deal lasts through June 20. It's the first major promotion for Burger King since it launched its loyalty program nationwide.
Shares of Restaurant Brands International have risen 10% this year, giving it a market value of $31.3 billion. While Burger King and Popeyes' U.S. locations have bounced back from the pandemic quickly, Tim Hortons is taking longer to see customers return to its cafes.