Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
May 14, 2019

Is there anything bigger in foodservice right now than the fried chicken sandwich? Even in its simplest form, it’s miraculous, hitting all the right notes of savoriness, crispiness and meatiness. Of course, the fried chicken sandwich also offers chefs a great opportunity for riffing on the original and creating a signature, come-back-tomorrow experience. Evidence of this freestyle play abounds, demonstrating that sweet spot of finding a well-loved menu item with built-in craveability and reinventing it for today’s adventurous diners.

Super Fly

Flyrite Chicken, a fast-casual chicken sandwich concept, learned early on that although its basic sandwich was well received, consumers wanted more options. “In the beginning, we served a very basic sandwich called The Standard, but we wanted to up the ante and move toward a more crafted sandwich,” says Dallas Miller, Director of Operations. “So we came up with The Superfly, which was not really a sandwich as much as what you could do to any of our sandwiches: I want to ‘superfly’ my standard.” That generally meant adding ingredients like fresh jalapeño, bacon, and so on. “This option became popular quickly, helping us move in the direction of several crafted sandwiches. One of the most popular is The Cowboy,” he says. The Cowboy is Flyrite’s super-crispy chicken sandwich topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, fresh jalapeño, pickles and Hoss sauce, a sweet-tangy sauce with just a hint of spice.

“When you consider the ingredients we use, it’s not hard to see why it’s a fan favorite,” says Miller. “Combining applewood-smoked bacon, fresh jalapeño and cheddar on a spicy fried chicken sandwich with our signature Hoss sauce and pickles gives you something delicious that is super easy to execute.”

When You’re Hot

Nashville hot chicken, classic slaw, dill pickles, Greek yogurt ranch, mayo

Jeff Newman, Culinary Director of fast-casual chicken concept Starbird, describes the Nashville Hotbird as “the most successful limited-time offering in company history—by a long shot.” Its huge success earned the sandwich a place on the regular menu.

Nashville hot has proven itself a hit across the country, enticing diners with a craveable combination of crunchy fried chicken and punchy heat. Starbird’s version follows a traditional process by dunking the chicken in a housemade oil blend and finishing it with a proprietary hot seasoning. Starring antibiotic-free chicken, the build is layered with mayonnaise, a housemade Greek yogurt ranch, classic slaw and dill pickles on house-baked bread.

The Hotbird provides a perfect balance of heat, acid and creaminess,” says Newman. “The overall flavor experience is different than traditional hot chicken as it doesn’t kill your taste buds with an overwhelming burning sensation. Instead, it gives you just enough heat to keep you coming back.” Starbird invested in Nashville hot, rolling out both a Nashville Hotbird Taco and a Tender Box at the same time. “These items were well received by our guests, and still sit high on our top-sellers list,” he says. In fact, because of the flavor system’s overall success, the concept has since added Nashville Hot Loaded Fries.

A Leg Up

Leg of deep-fried chicken, toasted sesame bun, spicy daikon slaw

As Korean fried chicken and Japanese karaage continue to win fans, they’re paving the way for other global takes, such as the version at 886, serving modern Taiwanese dishes.

The Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich draws its inspiration from a spicy chicken sandwich only available at McDonald’s in Taiwan. At 886, an entire leg of chicken is marinated in rice vinegar, rice wine, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce and a house chile powder, then deep fried. It’s then placed on a toasted sesame bun and topped with a spicy white daikon slaw. The large size and vibrant colors of the sandwich make it one of the restaurant’s most Instagrammed dishes, while its balance of flavor and textures make it a standout culinary experience.

“Similar to most Taiwanese food, the sandwich blends savory and sweet notes,” says Chef/Co-Owner Eric Sze. “It is the perfect messy and spicy sandwich, with juicy, crispy fried chicken at the forefront.” Sze has crafted a mini version of the sandwich for 886’s late-night menu, bringing together fried chicken, Thai basil and a signature hot sauce. The Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich performs well, demonstrating yet another successful iteration of fan-favorite fried chicken.

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