McDonald’s is set to add chicken to its breakfast menu nationally in 2020.
The fast-food chain is planning to launch chicken at breakfast in January, according to internal documents seen by Business Insider.
McDonald’s did not say exactly what this breakfast chicken option might be, neither in the documents nor when Business Insider reached out to the company for comment. Recent chicken-related breakfast tests from McDonald’s included McChicken McMuffins, Chicken McGriddles and McChicken Biscuits. The chain currently serves chicken offerings at breakfast at roughly half of its locations in the US.
“America has loved McDonald’s breakfast since the iconic Egg McMuffin debuted in McDonald’s restaurants in 1975,” McDonald’s said in a statement to Business Insider. “We will continue to bring new and delicious craveable options, freshly prepared in our kitchens to our customers, so stay tuned.”
Whatever form McDonald’s chicken comes in, it will face some stiff competition. Chick-fil-A has long maintained its dominance as the go-to place for fried chicken in the morning. But, in January, Wendy’s is launching its breakfast menu, which includes a honey butter chicken sandwich.
Wendy’s and McDonald’s decision to launch chicken at breakfast at the same time highlights Chick-fil-A’s growing influence on the fast-food industry, which is increasingly obsessed with the chicken sandwich.
Popeyes’ explosively successful chicken sandwich launch helped spark an industry-wide war over chicken sandwiches in August. While chains including Popeyes and Chick-fil-A saw a sales boost, McDonald’s chicken sales took a hit.
2020 showdown for breakfast and chicken
KeyBanc analysts said in a recent note on McDonald’s that “breakfast and chicken are the new battlegrounds” for fast food. Analysts have been buzzing about how McDonald’s will respond to Wendy’s breakfast roll-out.
“Breakfast is a competitive day part, I mean, we’ve seen competitors ramp up their activity during this year as well actually,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told investors on a call in October. “So having another entrant in next year will just ensure that the market share fight remains as competitive as ever.”
Easterbrook said that McDonald’s was encouraged by the current quarter, as breakfast sales growth was in line with the rest of the day after lagging in prior quarters.
Following the call, Cowen’s Andrew M. Charles wrote in a note to investors that McDonald’s “was tightlipped on plans to react to Wendy’s 1Q20 national breakfast launch, other than to say McDonald’s wants to avoid leading with discounts. Why wouldn’t a Breakfast Big Mac/Quarter Pounder, or another variety of Egg McMuffin make sense to reinforce McDonald’s breakfast authority?”
Many experts are also expecting McDonald’s to roll out a new chicken sandwich in 2020.
Franchisees have been urging the company to make developing a new chicken sandwich a “top priority.” The company has been testing new chicken sandwiches, but an early version apparently underwhelmed restaurant operators earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.