In a U.S. Chicken Consumption Report published in July 2018 by the National Chicken Council (NCC), 68% of consumers said they ate a chicken meal or snack purchased from a foodservice establishment in the two weeks leading up to the survey.
Those chicken consumption numbers show an increase of 1.5% over the year prior, reflecting recovery from a slight dip in 2017.
The average number of times consumers said they had eaten a chicken meal or snack from a foodservice establishment was 2.2 times in the prior two weeks, the same as it had been for 2017 and 2016. Twenty-nine percent said they ate chicken three or more times in the past two weeks.
Furthermore, 19% of the respondents said they anticipated eating more chicken from a foodservice establishment over the next 12 months. With Americans already clearly demonstrating their love of chicken, foodservice operators have ample opportunity to build sales by offering some slight variations on the familiar fare.
“For a fried chicken offering, feature dark-meat chicken parts at a special price to encourage trial,” said Tom Super, NCC’s senior vice president of communications. “Or try rotating in different spices or other flavors to extend the audience for chicken.”
Chicken has been one of the major areas of focus for Fremont, Ohio-based FriendShip Food Stores over the past several years, leading to a total revamp of its program. Ed Burcher, FriendShip’s vice president of foodservice, explained that for years the chain sold a distributor-branded program that “was doing okay, but provided little in the way of product and development updates.”
Early last year, the new FriendShip Kitchens brand (which also encompasses the pizza, breakfast and Fresh-To-Go sandwich categories) was introduced into new stores and remodels. The chicken is also set to roll out to all of FriendShip’s 26 stores.
“We changed every component of the product, moving to a proprietary seasoning blend and offering new formulations of tenders and bone-in chicken using a marinated product,” Burcher said. “We currently launched Spicy Chicken Tenders as a limited time offer (LTO) and are featuring a four-piece bone-in-chicken special to bring some interest and highlight that product.”
Being a smaller chain with a proprietary program allows FriendShip Kitchens to be especially nimble when it comes to bringing LTOs and other new products to market.
So far, tenders are the clear winner when it comes to the popularity of menu items. Already “famous for chicken,” as Burcher pointed out, the protein is also used as a key ingredient in the retailer’s signature wraps for its Fresh-To-Go case and as a topping for salads.