NEW YORK — KFC is aiming to take a bigger bite out of the chicken sandwich market by changing how it prepares them.
The chain says it is hoping to improve the taste and is switching from filets that were breaded and frozen offsite before being shipped to the stores in favor of filets breaded at the stores. That’s similar to how rivals Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s already prepare their chicken.
The move reflects how big fast-food chains are trying to step up the image of their offerings, and follows an announcement by McDonald’s that it would start using fresh instead of frozen beef for its Quarter Pounders next year.
For Louisville, Kentucky-based KFC, the switch is part of a push to revive business and court younger customers. The efforts have included TV ads starring celebrities as founder Colonel Sanders.
A key step is gaining a bigger share of the chicken sandwich market, which KFC says accounts for 40 percent of the fast-food industry’s chicken category. KFC says it’s not looking to take business from other fried chicken chains and is instead targeting burger chains that use filets that are breaded offsite and shipped to stores frozen. KFC says it removed sandwiches using similar filets from its menu earlier this year.
“Frankly, it is not the kind of fried chicken sandwich we should be serving as the fried chicken experts,” says Kevin Hochman, president of KFC in the United States, which is owned by Yum Brands.
Instead, the chain will introduce a “Zinger” chicken sandwich next week made with a filet that is breaded in stores. The company is hoping that can help it push up sales. Although KFC’s sales have been climbing at established locations, the chain has been shrinking its base of domestic stores and ended last year with around 4,200 U.S. locations.