Shake Shack brings Korean Fried Chicken to fast-food's chicken sandwich wars
Posted January 5, 2021 6:59 a.m. EST
CNN — Shake Shack is kicking off 2021 by introducing a new contender to the fast food industry's already-crowded chicken sandwich wars.
The burger chain announced the rollout of its Korean-style Fried Chick'n Sandwich and Korean-style Gochujang Chick'n Bites on Tuesday. Both items use Gochujang, a fermented red chili paste common in Korean cuisine.
The new sandwich combines crispy chicken breast with a spicy-sweet Gochujang glaze, toasted sesame seeds and white kimchi coleslaw for $7.19. The company's new Chick'n Bites are made with white meat chicken and served with Gochujang mayo sauce. They come in six-piece and 10-piece orders that cost $5.19 and $7.19, respectively. Shake Shack says the Korean fried chicken offerings will be available nationwide through April 5, 2021.
Shake Shack's new entries in the fast food industry's chicken sandwich wars signal the battle is heating up again in early 2021 after reaching a peak in late 2019 when Popeyes unveiled its popular spicy chicken sandwich. That ignited a space race of sorts between Chick-Fil-A, KFC, Wendy's, McDonald's and Taco Bell. On Monday, McDonald's introduced three new chicken sandwiches it plans to add to its menu in February.
Americans have been eating more chicken and less beef the last few years, a trend the fast-food industry has seized on recently, according to Peter Saleh, managing director and analyst covering restaurants and food distribution at BTIG, a broker-dealer investment bank.
"This has been an ongoing battle," Saleh told CNN Business. "The chicken poultry segment is a little bit more popular these days with consumers. everybody's trying to capitalize on that."
Saleh said consumers should expect to see a surge in chicken sandwich promotions from major chains in early 2021, noting that many fast food companies pulled back on ads during the spring of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was peaking for the first time.
"A lot of them have this war chest of advertising that they used in the back end of 2020," he said. "They will use that in the first half of 2021 for the new items, including the chicken sandwiches that they plan to launch."
In addition to its two new chicken offerings, Shake Shack customers can also order a side of crinkle-cut fries served with Gochujang mayo sauce and the company's new Black Sugar Vanilla Shake, a hand-spun frozen treat that Shake Shack says is popular in Korea, Taiwan and other Asian markets. The shake includes of mix of caramel-flavored, toasty black sugar and frozen vanilla custard topped off with whipped cream and black sugar syrup for $5.69.
The company's culinary director Mark Rosati says the creations were inspired by the Korean fried chicken restaurant scene in Seoul, which he and his team first experienced in 2015, a year before Shake Shack opened its first location there.
"We tried countless joints over the years, immersing ourselves in all of the different styles and finding what makes Seoul such a delicious and iconic city," Rosati told CNN Business via email. "We have come to love the diverse flavor profile Korean fried chicken offers."
Korean fried chicken is the latest poultry option to be added to Shake Shack's menu. In September, the company added the Hot Chick'n sandwich to its lineup for a third time, three years after its original unveil.
"We've seen great success for our chicken menu offerings," Rosati said.
Hot Chick'n's reintroduction fueled a late 2020 surge in Shake Shack's sales, according to a December report from Cowen investment bank.