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Trending this week: McDonald’s unveils new chicken sandwich

In the first week of 2021, was dominated by holdover trends from last year, from new fried chicken sandwiches to design prototypes emphasizing off-premise to a slew of mergers and acquisitions.

McDonald’s was the first restaurant chain to announce a new chicken sandwich this year, with theirs officially launching systemwide Feb. 24 in three versions: crispy, spicy and deluxe. The Chicago-based quick-service brand has been testing versions of the new chicken platform for the past year.

Also this week, brands continued to unveil new design prototypes influenced by consumer changes spurred by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Quick-service Mexican-American chain Del Taco showed off its “Fresh Flex” prototype, offering third-party delivery pickup areas, double drive-thrus and parking for dining in cars. Meanwhile, casual-dining Applebee’s began testing its first drive-thru location in Texas, evaluating how the addition could impact off-premise service.

In the mergers and acquisition space, an affiliate of private investment firm Peak Rock Capital bought Houston-based doughnut and kolache franchisor Shipley Do-Nuts, a chain of about 300 units. In fast-casual, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop acquired Wing Zone, creating a $150 million company, in the hopes of leveraging the wing chain’s off-premise expertise.

In other news, Americans begin receiving $600 stimulus checks, Subway began offering protein bowls for the first time, a Christmas bomb destroyed dozens of downtown Nashville restaurants, Inspire Brands named a new president, and we looked back at 25 restaurant and franchisee bankruptcies from 2020.

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