Consumers have already had to deal with a series of price hikes from their favorite fast-food chains in recent years as companies try to battle their own rising costs due to inflation. But new reports that fast-food restaurants are facing elevated chicken costs, and concerns that they could increase their own prices even more as a result, seem to be striking a particularly big nerve with consumers.
Increased demand for smaller chickens at several major fast-food chains, coupled with the poultry industry's focus on producing bigger chickens, is reportedly driving up costs for the smaller birds. Customers fear that fast-food chains will raise their own chicken prices to offset the costs, and they're outraged at the prospect of getting an ever higher bill at their favorite restaurant chains. A recent Reddit post about the potential price increases received dozens of comments from consumers who lambasted the fast-food industry for moving away from the low prices that used to hold major appeal.
"Fast food companies are living in another world. They're making their products more expensive than an actual restaurant. Why go get fast food when I can go to a sit down restaurant at this point?" wrote one irate consumer. "Yeah, no. It's already too expensive. Not sure how anyone can afford it," wrote another.
"This is why my consumption of fast food has decreased to almost zero now," one Reddit user wrote. "If I am going to go out and eat something, I may as well get something from a proper restaurant if I'm going to be spending these new prices."
A glut of larger birds seems to be the issue with the current price hikes. Though some may be inclined to believe that bigger is always better in the world of American fast food, this is not the case when it comes to chicken. Major fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A and KFC prefer smaller chickens for bone-in chicken and sandwiches, which are considered to be more flavorful and tender than larger birds, The Wall Street Journal reported.
As a result, demand for smaller chickens that weigh around four pounds has increased in recent years. But chicken producers have long been focusing on raising larger and more profitable birds, so suppliers have been stretched to meet the demand. The ongoing chicken sandwich wars, which Popeyes triggered in 2019 with the debut of its wildly-popular chicken sandwich, definitely haven't helped the issue.
The higher demand for smaller chickens has driven up costs for restaurant operators, and chains may resort to increasing their own fast-food chicken prices as a result. According to The Wall Street Journal, KFC informed franchise owners in an internal message earlier this year of a supply imbalance caused by poultry producers converting their plants to work with larger chickens rather than the smaller varieties KFC uses. KFC said that these supply woes have put pressure on chicken availability and "product cost."
If chicken chains like KFC and Chick-fil-A do decide to pass their higher chicken costs along to customers, they face the risk of becoming yet another fast-food brand that customers view as wildly overpriced.