We love our chicken in America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that we ate about 93.8 pounds of it per person last year. A 2018 survey of chicken-eating habits conducted by the National Chicken Council found that 86% of respondents said that in the two weeks preceding the survey they had eaten a chicken meal or snack bought at a supermarket and 68% had eaten one from a food service establishment.
According to the food service industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), fast food chicken chains represent the fastest-growing segment in the business, with total sales up 8.9% — far outpacing the 3.2% overall average growth for the nation’s top 200 chains.
NRN pulled a list of the top 10 chicken chains in America, by systemwide sales, from its ranking of 200 chains for 2018. These range from Boston Market, founded in a Boston suburb as Boston Chicken in 1985 (the name changed a decade later), with sales of less than $600 million last year, to the 800-pound fryer in the room — the controversial Chick-fil-A, whose sales exceeded $10 billion.
That poultry behemoth opened 129 new outlets last year, an increase of 5.8%, but its sales went up by 16.7%, with estimated sales of $4.6 million per location. That makes Chick-fil-A more successful than Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, or Subway. It’s now the third largest fast food operation in the country, after Starbucks and McDonalds. All of these are included in this list of the most iconic items at the nation’s biggest fast food chains.
Chick-fil-A was also a participant in this summer’s so-called chicken wars, ignited when Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (the nation’s third largest chicken chain) introduced its first-ever chicken sandwich with a social media campaign that went viral. Chick-fil-A responded with a tweet suggesting that its own chicken sandwich was the original, and the fray was on. Both chains earned major social media mentions and engagements — and Popeyes sold so many sandwiches that it ran out of chicken breast and stopped offering the sandwiches until further notice.
Of course, chicken sandwiches are only one of the many ways in which we enjoy America’s favorite bird. These are the best restaurant chicken dishes in America.