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4 Most Overpriced Chicken Chains In 2024

From Chick-fil-A to Popeyes, customers are getting fed up with the rising costs of their fried chicken faves.
FACT CHECKED BY Chris Shott

Chicken strips, nuggets, and fried chicken sandwiches: these popular items have been driving customers to fast-food chains for years. Many restaurants, including Popeyes, KFC, and Chick-fil-A, focus primarily on serving up fried chicken—and for good reason.

A recent survey by Louisiana Fish Fry found that 79% of consumers crave fried chicken at least once a month or more, while more than half of those surveyed said they typically eat fried chicken sandwiches two to three times a month or more. That means big business. But given fast-food chains' wide-ranging price hikes of late—an inflationary trend impacting pizzerias, sandwich shops, and burger joints alike—just how much are customers willing to pay before they feel the pinch in their wallets?

Recently, personal finance site FinanceBuzz compared several fast-food joints to find out which restaurants raised prices the most over the last decade, and some heavy-hitting chicken spots rank among the top of the list. Popeyes prices went up 86% over the last decade, while Chick-fil-A went up 55%.

Rising prices at the following four chicken chains may have finally caught up with what customers are willing to pay for a simple meal of battered chicken.

Chick-fil-A

chick fil a exterior
Photo: Shutterstock

Though it only operates six days a week, Chick-fil-A is still one of the most profitable fast-food chains in the country. It has surpassed other major players like KFC and Popeyes to become the largest chicken chain in terms of sales. In fact, this past spring, CFA became the third-largest fast-food chain in America, just behind McDonald's and Starbucks.

Chicken sandwiches and nuggets make up the backbone of the Southern-inspired menu, but as of late, customers have been openly complaining about the chain being overpriced for what you get. One TikToker apparently paid $40 for four items: a small shake, grilled chicken nuggets, fries, and regular chicken nuggets. "Chick-fil-A has officially lost a loyal customer," she said. Commenters agreed, with one claiming that a recent sandwich meal order for a family of three set her back a whopping $70 at Chick-fil-A.

Elsewhere on the internet, one customer claimed paying $7 for one chicken sandwich is simply too much. "Chick-fil-A is way too expensive. I don't care how high quality the meat is, or how good the service is," the Redditor wrote recently. "I mean it's ridiculous that two chicken sandwiches and a drink [equals] 17 dollars. The price is insane."

Research from January suggested that prices at the chicken chain have indeed gone up. Chick-fil-A first hiked prices for its classic chicken sandwich by 15% in 2022, followed by a menu-wide increase of 6% in January 2023. Lately, some former fans have said on Reddit that they stopped eating at Chick-fil-A altogether due to the price increases: "I stopped going to Chick-fil-A. Waaaay too expensive now. Sandwich and fries together are over $10. Not including a drink." Even so, Chick-fil-A remains a fan favorite, according to a new study by Coupon Birds, with 53% of respondents choosing it as their preferred chicken sandwich shop.

 I Tried Chick-fil-A's Entire Breakfast Menu—and One Item Blew Me Away

KFC

kfc store exterior
Photo: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock. Design: Eat This, Not That!

Kentucky Fried Chicken has been slinging buckets of chicken for a long time, and the chain is often credited with popularizing fried chicken in the fast-food industry. In 1963, it was the largest fast-food operation in the U.S., with 600 stores. However, back in 2013, Chick-fil-A managed to outsell and surpass KFC as the top chicken chain in the U.S., even though it only had a fraction of the stores. And just last year, Popeyes surpassed KFC in terms of market share, relegating KFC to third position, and suggesting chicken fans may be jumping ship on KFC. Another reason? The prices.

"Why is it so damn expensive now," one former KFC fan asked on Reddit. "Haven't been to kfc in maybe a year and the 3 piece tender combo went from like $7-8 to $12.99." Other Redditors agreed, chiming in with their local prices: $44 for a 12-piece bucket, $33 for an 8-piece family meal, two chicken strip boxes for $30.

One Redditor reportedly saw a meal listed for $89 at their local KFC: "I… saw the prices listed and pulled out of the drive through without ordering. Can't justify that on food cost or labor costs." Many former fans went as far as saying they can no longer afford to eat at KFC anymore, so they have been skipping it altogether.

This year, KFC has tried to win back customers from rivals by introducing value menu items starting at $4.99 in April, as part of its "Taste of KFC Deals" value menu, which runs until the end of the year. But just a month later, the head of KFC parent company Yum Brands admitted the chain was struggling, in part due to fierce competition and value promotions from other quick-service chicken chains. "The KFC brand in the U.S. has been struggling," Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs said during an earnings call. This comes after disappointing quarterly results: Same-store sales at KFC's U.S. locations dropped 7%.

RELATED: Every New KFC Saucy Nugget, Tasted & Ranked

Popeyes

Popeyes storefront design
Photo: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock. Design: Eat This, Not That!

Unfortunately for Popeyes, the chicken chain went viral last year after an internet user posted a menu board with outrageous prices, including $59.99 for a 16-piece tender meal with two large sides and six biscuits. Twitter users posted screenshots of prices for that very meal at their local Popeyes, including $42.99 in Gainesville, Ga., and $64.99 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Since then, Popeyes fans have continued to complain about the prices.

One Redditor reportedly paid $15 for a three-piece tender with fries, posting, "Why is popeyes so expensive now?" The sentiment resonated with some posters. "Yes! I just got an 8pc for 21.99," one user replied. "We only wanted the chicken because we had sides at home. That is ridiculous!" Elsewhere on the internet, one Popeyes fan accused the chicken chain of "beyond absurd" prices. "The prices on the two combos I'd want to buy, the 8 pc or 12 pc chicken family meals, have gone up by $6 and $4 or so respectively." Another said they won't return to the chicken chain. "Double the price I paid last year. I saw $15.99 for the 5 tenders and haven't been to Popeyes since. Drove this customer away forever."

Between 2014 and 2024, Popeyes hiked their food prices an average of 86%, according to FinanceBuzz. For example, a decade ago, a two-piece chicken combo at Popeyes would cost $6.49. Today, that same order would be $11.39. The price of Popeyes' 4-piece chicken dinner nearly doubled in that time frame, from $6.99 to $13.79.

Perhaps clueing into the fact that customers were feeling the pinch, Popeyes recently launched a new $6.99 meal deal for a limited time.

Despite the customer outrage, Popeyes is on track to expand its operations in the U.S. and Canada over the next four years, from 3,400 stores in 2023 to more than 4,200 by 2028.

 Raising Cane's vs. Popeyes: Which Has the Best Chicken Tenders?

Raising Cane's

Raising cane's restaurant
Photo: Arne Beruldsen / Shutterstock

This Louisiana-based chicken chain is giving Chick-fil-A a run for its money, with many fast-food fans arguing online that it's the superior chicken chain. The two are similarly priced in many markets. According to the Wichita Eagle, a three-chicken finger combo at Raising Cane's rings up at $8.79 in Kansas' largest city, the same as a chicken sandwich meal at a local Chick-fil-A.

Still, some Raising Cane's fans are getting sticker shock. "Raising Cane's. $18 for… this," one Redditor posted. "I don't know what the hell is happening to fast food joints lately but I am absolutely shocked that this little box of shit costs $18. It used to be $9.79 and the chicken tenders were massive," they posted alongside a receipt from a Phoenix-area restaurant.

Another Redditor called Raising Cane's "Glorified Cafeteria Food," saying the $11 price tag on a three-finger combo was "whack." In the comments, Raising Cane's customers said the worst part about rising prices are the seemingly decreasing portion sizes. "Fingers are half their previous size. Fry portion in a Caniac is half its previous size. As prices went from $11 to $15," they wrote. One ex-worker took to TikTok to slam recent price increases, saying a box combo in 2018 was $8.40, which now costs around $16. Customers weighed in in the comment section: "My sandwich combo was 8.16 in 2018 and now it's 12."

Despite the pricing woes, the fast-growing chicken chain has already opened dozens of new locations since the beginning of the year. In fact, the chain plans to open more than 90 new stores in 2024 alone, bolstered by solid financials. Raising Cane's has seen a notable 15.1% rise in the first quarter of 2024, according to QSR Magazine.

Emily Latimer
Emily Latimer is a freelance journalist with a passion for food and restaurants. Read more about Emily