Coup d'taste: Burger dethroned as fast-food king

Chicken sandwiches now outnumber hamburgers on quick-service restaurant menus.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 4, 2013 4:32PM
photo of a grilled chicken breast sandwich (copyright Dennis Gottlieb/StockFood Creative/Getty Images)The burger is no longer the undisputed king of the fast food world.

According to the website BurgerBusiness, market researcher Mintel has found more chicken sandwiches than burgers on the menus of quick-service restaurants since beef prices shot up in 2010.

As of 2012, chicken held a slim 330 to 323 lead. Burgers have regained some ground from 2011, when their numbers stood at 314. Chicken, though, is hardly on the ropes, with many consumers eating less red meat for health reasons.

"Consider the barrage of new menu items introduced by Burger King (BKW) in January," the site says. "Yes, it included an Avocado Swiss Whopper, but the wave also brought Philly Original Chicken and Italian Original Chicken sandwiches, as well as the introduction of new Chicken Nuggets."

McDonald's (MCD) recently introduced McWrap chicken sandwiches, the newest permanent addition to its menu, while Wendy's (WEN) unveiled Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwiches. Let's not forget the continued popularity of chicken-wing joint Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) and the resiliency of Chick-fil-A, which reported a 12% increase in sales last year despite the negative publicity it endured for its opposition to gay marriage.

Not surprisingly, the cost of chicken is on the rise. February data from the USDA show that chicken prices were up 5% year-over-year and should continue to increase, along with other food costs, for the rest of 2013. (No word on the price of guinea pigs.)

--Jonathan Berr owns a small position in McDonald's. Follow him on Twitter at @jdberr.

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Apr 4, 2013 8:16PM
Bias thrown into a straightforward news story. Chick-fil-A may have gotten negative publicity for its support for traditional marriage in leftwing circles, but the story there was the outpouring of support for the chain in the wake of the left-wing attacks. The attacks actually helped boost Chick-fil-A sales.
Apr 4, 2013 11:11PM
My Father ate fast food twice a day and sometimes three times a day. He lived to be 97 years old and had a healthy life.
Apr 5, 2013 7:23AM
I'm sorry, but what a worthless piece of "news!"  Chicken has "dethroned" the burger--as the headline touts--because there are more chicken varieties listed on menus than burger varieties? What does that have to do with anything? It is a meaningless comparison. By this logic, Cheese Pizza is NOT the best seller, because there are so many OTHER pizza flavors listed on the menu? It is an absurd comparison. Chicken will "dethrone burgers as the fast food king" when consumers buy more chicken than burgers, and not until.
Apr 4, 2013 11:17PM

Chicken tops the number of choices, but not the consumption.

The burger is still king of sales.

Apr 4, 2013 8:24PM
 May have been added but surely does not exceed burger orders.  No way man - this is America!
Apr 4, 2013 9:14PM

Make mine a burger please. I will have chicken only on occasion. Nice crispy hot chicken wings w/blue cheese dressing are the exception

Apr 5, 2013 6:15AM
I agree that there are more chicken sandwich choices then there has been in the past but there is NO WAY it's out selling hamburgers. It has been the American favorite for 70 years! You want chicken? Go to KFC or Chick-fil-A. If you want burgers then go to anywhere else.
Apr 5, 2013 12:29AM
How is the Italian chicken sandwich from Burger King new? It's been around since BK first started selling chicken, just not always avalable, kind of like the McRib.
Apr 5, 2013 10:55AM
Chicken is fine once in a while, but I have never in 50 years had an urge to get in the car and drive somewhere for a big juicy chicken sandwich !  Make mine a big, nasty, juicy hamburger...and lets double up on  the cheese !
Apr 4, 2013 8:59PM
Chicken processing isn't pretty..But beef and hog slaughter houses and processing "are not a walk in the park", either...
Apr 4, 2013 8:30PM
If you had ever been through a chicken-processing plant, believe me, you would think beef looked pretty good by comparison.
Apr 5, 2013 11:33AM
I'll go to The Habit any day over these. Best burger around!
Apr 4, 2013 9:36PM

chicken strips with ranch dressing. Mmmm!


Apr 5, 2013 2:50PM

The only reason I don't support Chick-Fil-A and it has nothing to do with their politcal stance on traditional marriage - it is that I can't seem to get to them at lunch on my lunch break due to the long line....that is it!  Food is great, just can't always get to it.

Apr 5, 2013 12:50PM
"the resiliency of Chick-fil-A, which reported a 12% increase in sales last year despite the negative publicity it endured for its opposition to gay marriage"

What an erroneous, politically-biased comment!  My impression from their much longer lines the week that story broke is that their support of marriage was FAVORABLE publicity for them.  For one, I go there much more frequently since then.  The noisier opponents of marriage may have viewed it as unfavorable publicity but the dollar votes say otherwise.

Your comment also does not say whether the 12% increase is the total for the system or for same-location sales open more than a year (a common benchmark).  Chick-Fil-A has been opening new stores and this likely caused part of the system's increase. 
Apr 4, 2013 9:29PM
I'm not sold on chicken at a fast food. You'd be hard-pressed to define Burger King's classic chicken thing as chicken and who in the world trusts McDonalds? Wendy's burgers are-- burger-like and that pretzel bun they are working on should throw the poll results accordingly. Seeing is believing and Chipotle has the best transparency. Even their pork looks like pork.
And grossly fat people now outnumber merely fat people...and the two groups put together vastly outnumber fit people in this country :)  Thank you junk food and advertising.
Another attack on fast food by the health police of the left wing faction that has destroyed this nation. You can do more variety with chicken than burgers but in the end it's still a chicken sandwich and a burger is still a burger.
Apr 5, 2013 3:37PM
Could be that most burger joints serve soymeat instead of meat to maximize profits.  My last Burger King tasted like a beef flavored wash cloth. 
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