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Fast-Food Chains Are Struggling to Keep Up With Demand for This Item

Are we even surprised?

As major fast-food players start to report their first-quarter earnings this week, a common growth pattern is emerging—crispy chicken sandwiches are the standout items helping chains recover and gain back their pre-pandemic sales.

According to Yum! Brands executives, KFC's new and improved chicken sandwich, which launched in February, is selling at more than twice the rate of the chain's older version, while McDonald's three new chicken sandwiches are exceeding operators' daily sales expectations, according to CNBC.

RELATED: The 5 Best-Selling Chicken Sandwiches in America—Revealed

But the sheer proliferation and popularity of the dozens of new chicken sandwiches on the market have also left some brands struggling to keep up with the growing national demand for the item. Or rather, the meat that goes into it.

"As we've entered [the second quarter], demand for the new sandwich has been so strong that, coupled with general tightening of domestic chicken supply, our main challenge has been keeping up with that demand," said David Gibbs, CEO of Yum! Brands.

Wings, for example, which have also become one of the most popular fast-food items during the pandemic, are already in short supply across the country. Restaurants in states like Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio are having to cancel Wing Nights or come up with creative alternatives, like serving "boneless wings" made of breast meat. But the chicken shortage could soon expand to include chicken breasts, too, which would put the fast-food chicken sandwich supply in jeopardy.

Chicken producers like Pilgrim's Pride are struggling to keep up with the growing demand from restaurants, but the company is allegedly investing in ramping up production. Meanwhile, some chains are turning to thighs as an alternative for chicken sandwiches. Nathan's Famous recently debuted the new Nashville Hot Fried Chicken and Sticky and Spicy Grilled Chicken sandwiches, both of which use chicken thighs in place of breasts.

For more on chicken sandwiches, check out We Tried 11 Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches & This Is the Best One, 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 senior news editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more