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The chicken sandwich war was the best thing to happen to fast food in 2019 - here's why

1 month ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Retail

In August, the greatest thing that could have happened to fast food happened: a Twitter spat started by Chick-fil-A ($PRIV_CHICKFILA) and directed at Popeyes ($NYSE:QSR) over who has the best fried-chicken sandwich. Thousands of Twitter users rushed to Popeye's defense, and thousands more defended Chick-fil-A.

But the blast radius was large. So large, in fact, that not only did the Twitter followings for both Popeyes and Chick-fil-A jump, but those of other fast-food chains who also have a competing sandwich saw their followings rise at the very same moment. If you had a chicken sandwich, you got to be a part of the debate. 

And it turns out that everyone on Twitter has an opinion about Chicken sandwiches. The graphs below show how, in August, virtually every fast-food chain with a chicken sandwich saw a visible rise in Twitter following in the echoes of the great Twitter war of 2019.

The largest benefactor of the Great Chicken War of 2019 (tm) was, by far, Popeyes. It gained 215,000 followers in 2019 — a 117% increase. Between August 17 and September 1, it gained around 80,000 new followers alone, as Twitter users flocked to defend what they considered to be the best fried chicken sandwich.

Chick-fil-A, the company that fired the first shot, didn't do too poorly either. It gained 167,000 new Twitter followers in 2019 — outpacing that of Popeyes. However, that was only an 18% gain throughout the year. Between August 17 and September 1, it picked up around 60,000 new Twitter followers.

In our first bit of evidence that the chicken sandwich war wasn't limited to just Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, we see here that Wendy's ($NASDAQ:WEN) — makers of one of the first fast-food spicy chicken sandwiches — picked up its share of defenders. In 2019 it picked up a healthy 520,000 followers (an 18% gain), but during the Great Chicken War of 2019, it saw a discernable spike in followers. Between August 17 and September 1, Wendy's picked up 70,000 new Twitter followers.

Yes, McDonald's ($NYSE:MCD) has a spicy chicken sandwich. And, yes, people love it. In fact, McDonalds' Twitter account picked up 10,000 followers between August 17 and September 1 as fans flocked to Twitter to defend their favorite sandwich. In 2019, McDonald's picked up 80,000 followers - that's just a 2% rise. But in the graph above, it's clear as day that the company's biggest gain happened during the Great Chicken Wars of 2019.

Shake Shack ($NYSE:SHAK), makers of artisanal burgers and long lines, also saw noticeable benefits from the chicken rift. Throughout 2019, the company's Twitter account picked up just 7,800 users — a 9.4% increase — but between August 17 and September 1, it grabbed nearly 1,000 new followers, its biggest jump of the year.

KFC ($NYSE:YUM), by most accounts the originators of all things fast-food chicken, got its own share of lift from the Twitter spat. While its Twitter following increased just 7.6% in 2019 with 100,000 new users, 20,000 of those users jumped on board between August 17 and September 1.

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About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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