The more interesting development is McDonald’s test, beginning today, of the Chicken McBites menu item in Detroit. Interesting not just because it comes on the heels of Burger King’s reformulation of its Chicken Tenders but also because this is a rare instance of McDonald’s bringing to the U.S. a menu item developed elsewhere.
As reported here last November, McDonald’s first introduced Chicken McBites in Australia, positioning them as a crispier flanker to Chicken McNuggets. The McBites are 100% chicken breast-meat pieces in the style of KFC’s popular Popcorn Chicken. In Australia, McBites were advertised as having a “Southern-style coating.” Famed Aussie cricketer Shane Warne was ad spokesman for McBites down under but is unlikely to show up here.
While McNuggets are priced by the piece, Chicken McBites are priced by weight. In Detroit they are being offered at $1.99 for a 4-oz. serving; $2.99 for 6 ounces and $4.99 for 12 ounces of McBites. Dipping sauce choices include Sweet Chili, Creamy Ranch, Spicy Buffalo, Honey Mustard, Sweet ‘n Sour and Tangy Barbecue.
Also in November, BurgerBusiness.com reported McDonald’s test of Jalapeño Cheddar and Cheddar Onion McChicken varieties in San Diego. The spicy sandwiches have spread throughout California, this week arriving in Southern California stores and across Texas. Operators contacted by BurgerBusiness.com could not say if McDonald’s intends to expand availability of the spicy McChickens or Chicken McBites to additional markets.
Commodity prices continue to help explain restaurant chains’ renewed interest in chicken on the menu. Chicken breast prices rose 9% between February and March, but remain 5% below prices a year ago, according to data from Brad Ludington, restaurant analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. Meanwhile, beef prices in March were as much as 24% above year-earlier levels.