The chicken sandwich wars are far from over — and the Twin Cities-based barbecue chain Famous Dave’s is joining in.
Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave’s, created a new version that debuts Monday in 125 Famous Dave restaurants across the U.S. With the sandwich, the fourth with chicken on its menu, Famous Dave’s is joining a marketing battle that has raged since last summer among fast-food chains.
“I hold my chicken up against Popeyes, KFC and Chick-fil-A and mine is the tastiest sandwich of all,” he said. “But Popeyes is good.”
Miami-based Popeyes started the hypefest in August when it released a New Orleans-style chicken filet on a bun and aimed barbed messages at Chick-fil-A. That firm, based in Atlanta, has risen to become the No. 3 fast-food chain in the country, after McDonald’s and Starbucks, on a menu anchored by its chicken sandwich.
Popeyes’ new sandwich quickly sold out and then incited a Twitter feud between devotees of Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. Near National Sandwich Day, Nov. 3, Chick-fil-A sent an e-mail to its customers reminding them to order the Chick-fil-A sandwich they love, but forgetting that the day fell on a Sunday when their restaurants are closed. “Y’all good?” Popeyes tweeted back with a dose of snark.
Since then, other restaurants have been elbowing for a seat at the table, including Wendy’s, McDonald’s and now Famous Dave’s.
The Minnetonka-based BBQ chain already has three chicken sandwiches on its menu, so why add a fourth?
“We’ve always had chicken but not enough people know about it,” Anderson said.
The new sandwich is also the one to compete more directly on price. Famous Dave’s existing chicken sandwiches are larger and served with a side dish for about $11. Popeyes and Chick-fil-A sandwiches sell for $4. Famous Dave’s new sandwich sells for $5.
“It’s a great ‘to-go’ item and it’s at a price that competes with the others,” he said.
Anderson’s recipe, named Iris’ Comeback Chicken Sandwich after his mother, includes a deep-fried chicken on a buttery brioche bun, his signature spicy sweet pickles and comeback sauce. Better known in the South, comeback sauce usually consists of mayo, ketchup and Worcestershire and is typically added to fried green tomatoes and fried okra.
“We’re confident that ours is the winner,” Famous Dave’s Chief Executive Jeff Crivello said.
McDonald’s is likely to be the next restaurant to add a new chicken sandwich. It is testing two new versions in Houston and Knoxville, Tenn. For the moment, McDonald’s has launched a nationwide expansion of two regional breakfast sandwiches, Chicken McGriddles and McChicken Biscuit.
Hamburgers still rule the American fast-food diet. In 2018, the latest period for which data is available, 8.6 billion hamburgers were sold at U.S. restaurants compared with 4 billion chicken sandwiches, according to the NPD Group. But chicken is gaining ground faster than hamburgers, the firm said.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633