KFC Zinger sandwich Photos by Bret Thorn

KFC launches Zinger chicken sandwich in U.S.

Chicken chain plans to announce new colonel with launch

KFC is launching its Zinger sandwich, popular in more than 120 countries, to its more than 4,300 U.S. locations, starting April 24.

First introduced in Trinidad & Tobago in 1984, the sandwich is made with a marinated chicken breast double-breaded in the chain’s Extra Crispy Breading with a proprietary spice blend that includes cayenne pepper and other chiles. It will be available as a “$5 Fill Up” with potato wedges, a cookie and a drink. 

Corporate chef Bob Das indicated it would be the first of other sandwiches likely to be introduced following the “re-colonelization” of the brand which started three years ago that included $80 million in kitchen upgrades that would allow for rapid sandwich production.

“Our biggest challenge was making sure our back-of-house restaurants were situated right,” Das said, adding that the recolonelization also involved focusing on founder Colonel Sanders’ philosophy of “doing it the hard way.”

“That was his way of making sure: You do it the right way, do it the hard way,” Das said.

The sandwich had been tested in various U.S. markets, including Norfolk, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Cincinnati.

The new sandwich was announced at a food truck parked near Union Square in New York City, where free sandwiches were handed out to the public, by staff wearing T-shirts that said “70+ years of nothing but chicken.”

KFC’s newly appointed president and chief concept officer Kevin Hochman said the T-shirts were just made for the event and wouldn’t be part of the extensive marketing initiative that will accompany the launch, including a new colonel tied to the Zinger who will be named on Friday.

“I’m guessing it’ll be the most recognized colonel,” Hochman said. “The people internally that we talk about it to, they light up, like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it’s…’” he said without revealing the new colonel’s identity.

He did say, however, that the colonel would be launched with a “crazy” publicity stunt.

“I’ve been doing marketing for over 20 years. I’ve never been a part of … how big this thing could be,” he said.

Hochman added that the Zinger was a step up, quality-wise, form previous “freezer-to-fryer” chicken sandwiches like KFC’s Doublicious.

“That was not our most proud offering,” he said. “We’re at our best when we’re hand-breading chicken with our back-of-the-house cooks like we do with our Original Recipe and Extra Crispy and our chicken tenders. We know that will be a superior value and superior taste,” he said.

He added that KFC needed to enter the chicken sandwich market, which he said now accounts for 40 percent of all chicken servings in the country, compared to on-the-bone chicken, which is 18 percent. He noted that the big burger chains sell nearly two billion sandwiches each year in the United States.

Those chains have continued to up their offerings.

In March, Burger King replaced its Tendercrisp chicken sandwich with the new Crispy Chicken sandwich that it says is juicier and crispier than its previous offering.

This month Wendy’s introduced a limited-time grilled chicken sandwich topped with fresh mozzarella, balsamic-marinated diced tomatoes, basil pesto and spring mix on a garlic brioche bun for $5.29, and Krystal on Monday introduced a Country-Fried Chick — a batter-fried chicken patty topped with country gravy on a slider. It’s $1.39.

At the higher end, The Habit Burger Grill made its Golden Fried Chicken Sandwich, originally introduced as a limited-time offer in October, a permanent addition to the menu. The sandwich is made with breast in seasoned flour and buttermilk topped with spicy red pepper sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on a soft toasted bun for $6.50

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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