Skip to content

America May Soon Face a Massive Shortage Of This Popular Fast Food

Your favorite chicken item may soon be in short supply.

This probably isn't the news you want to hear heading into Super Bowl weekend, but fast-food chains across the country are grappling with low supplies of chicken wings. And that's not all—experts are warning that we may be on the cusp of a nationwide shortage of this in-demand comfort food.

But the current chicken wings craze isn't the brainchild of fast-food franchises. Americans have been ordering more fast-food chicken wings during the pandemic than ever, which makes sense since wings seem to be the perfect pandemic food. They're a highly craveable comfort-food classic that also travels well for takeout and delivery.

Recognizing consumers' growing appetite for chicken wings, brands like It's Just Wings and Neighborhood Wings have made this in-demand food central to their concepts. At the same time, Domino's and other chains have expanded their existing offering of wings.

Because of the increased demand for the beloved menu item, the supply chain is currently "tight." In fact, America's cold storage stock of chicken wings is at its lowest point since 2011, according to an analyst cited by Restaurant Business. (Related: McDonald's Is Making These 8 Major Upgrades.)

Gregg Nettleton, president and COO of the casual dining division for Fat Brands, told Restaurant Business that the short-term price increase should not affect consumers. "When product costs surge for a short period of time, that always affects margins given we utilize printed menus in our casual-dining locations." (Eat This, Not That! has reached out to Wingstop  and Applebee's for comment on changing prices but has not yet received a response.)

Could a potential shortage of chicken wings signal a new era in fast-food chicken? Some chains believe so, and they've already pivoted to testing other chicken options on their menus. For example, Wingstop announced in November that it would be testing bone-in chicken thighs as part of its "whole bird strategy." "Our research suggests it will be a fan favorite, and we're excited for all Wingstop fans to get to try it soon," CEO Charlie Morrison said at the time.

For more on the menu offerings from new digital fast-food brands, check out 7 New Fast-Food Chains You Can Only Find Online. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.

Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more
Filed Under