Burger King debuted Monday a new fall menu that includes mostly chicken-based items marketed toward health-conscious consumers. The move had one industry observer suggesting the burger chain was seeking out a larger market share with the chicken items.
The promotion, called the Fall Premium Chicken Menu, is the largest chicken menu rollout in the company’s history. Eric Hirschhorn, VP of market intelligence and global innovation at Burger King, said the menu was launched as a transition from the chain’s summer barbeque menu.
“The fall, as everyone knows, is kind of a change in seasons and a change in lifestyle as kids go back to school,” he said, adding that portable menu items are key during the fall. He also noted that customers are looking for more healthful options, which is reflected in the chicken-centric menu.
Although chicken prices have been increasing during the summer, Hirschhorn — who focuses mainly on market research and product innovation — said that the rising commodities costs had little impact on Burger King’s decision to expand its number of chicken menu items.
Rather, he said, the priority was to respond to customer demand. “We want to make sure that we offer new products to our customers that satisfy different needs,” he said.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president at restaurant industry research firm Technomic, said he’s not surprised that Burger King launched a chicken-based menu, even during a time of rising commodities prices. “Chicken has been in very high demand,” he said. “Some of the biggest growth chains are based around chicken...You have to be in the chicken game if you’re going to be successful, regardless of price.”
The menu includes the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, which, according to a press release, is composed of “tangy marinara, melted mozzarella and parmesan,” as well as popcorn chicken, “shareable bit-size pieces of premium white meat chicken breast,” with eight dipping sauce options. Other menu items include salad wraps, an Italian breakfast burrito and a raspberry smoothie made with real fruit.
The menu will also feature the company’s first-ever whole-wheat bun, he said, which will be used for the Italian Basil Chicken Sandwich. The menu’s Italian Basil Chicken Wrap, he said, will also contain 18.5 grams of whole grain.
Many of the fall menu items echo recent additions to McDonald’s menu, including the popcorn chicken, which is similar to Chicken McBites, and McDonald’s current limited time offer on McWraps. However, Hirschhorn said, the Burger King menu isn’t reactionary to McDonald’s changes—it’s a product of listening to its own consumers.
“It’s not about doing it first; it’s about doing it right,” he said. “We want to give the consumer what they want.”
Tristano said that this new menu rollout is a sign that Burger King is going after a larger market share, beyond its core burger-chain competitors. “My first reaction is that they are looking to be more competitive not only with McDonalds but also with a lot of the KFC and other chicken chains like Chick-fil-A by offering these sandwiches,” he noted.
By using words like “artisan,” “Italian” and “basil” in its menu, Tristano said Burger King is also marketing this menu as a higher-end offering. “They’re starting to use really key marketing descriptors that highlight their innovation, creativity and the culinary direction the brand is taking,” he said.
The Fall Premium Chicken Menu will run as a limited-time offer and will be accompanied by a nationwide advertising campaign, Hirschhorn said. An end date for the promotional menu hasn’t yet been set.
Editor's note: This article updates the amount of whole grains in Burger King's Italian Basil Chicken Wrap.