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Checkers’ Chicken Quarter Pounder Continues Trend

It’s surprising no other chain thought of it earlier, but Checkers/Rally’s has seized the opportunity this week with its introduction of a Quarter Pound Big Chicken sandwich. The sandwich debuts with a TV commercial promoting a 2 for $3 price.

Weight long has been a staple of burger marketing, what with McDonald’s Quarter Pounders and Angus Third Pounders, and Burger King’s ¼ Pound Double Cheeseburger, but chicken marketing most often concentrates on crunch or juiciness rather than heft. KFC’s Double Down sandwich, for example, weighs in at about a half pound in total, but weight is one of the sandwich’s few attributes that the chain doesn’t extol.

More significant than the size of Checkers’ sandwich is the size of that chain’s menu, which now offers almost as many chicken items as burgers. Significant but not surprising. Data from Mintel Menu Insights compiled for BurgerBusiness.com shows that this trend has taken place across the quick-service restaurant industry. A comparison of menus for QSRs that use chicken as an ingredient over the past three years finds a significant increase in chicken items on offer.

Overall, the total number of QSR chicken menu items rose from 1,437 during the second quarter in 2007 to 1,597 in 2010’s second quarter, an 11% jump in just three years, according to Mintel’s data.

Chicken burgers like Checkers’ Quarter Pound Big Chicken sandwich are the single largest chicken menu category but are not where the most menu growth has come. In fact, the number of chicken sandwiches has remained flat. Chicken wraps, however, have increased by 81% over the past three years. That trend is likely to occur given some of the recent market tests from major burger chains. Wendy’s has tested a line of chicken Fresh Wraps in the U.S. as well as Spicy Chicken and BLT wraps in Canada. McDonald’s is testing Chicken Flatbreads and a Chicken Grande Wrap. Hardee’s, too, is interested, having tested a Chicken Tenders Wrap this year. Chicken burritos have increased 25% since 2007, according to Mintel.

Checkers’ TV commercial for the Quarter Pound Big Chicken closes with a quick reminder that the chain also sells chicken wings. Wings have been the other source of chicken’s menu growth, with the number of items rising 34% since 2007. Krystal, another burger chain, recently added “Game Time Wings” to its menu.

Chicken’s relatively stable and comparatively low price has worked its favor over the past few years of volatile commodity costs. The price for whole fresh chicken that was $1.21 per pound in September 2008 increased to only $1.27 in September 2010, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

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