The folks who lead the Fast Food ‘industry’ are always coming up with something new and epoch-making. Well… I have a theory that a whole new tack is being taken on differentiating products from competing ones, based on quality or wholesomeness…
At first, it was easy to compete with the other guys. But the race accelerated quickly: Add Cheese. Make your burger larger. Add more toppings, Add more patties. Offer exotic new flavours in honour of other cuisines. Change-up the bun for something more exotic. Then… It’s time to add outboard enticements, such as complementary fries, or other finger/bar foods, with special seasonings and or sauces.
But what do you do when you get stuck in a rut like the recent/current, “My food’s hotter, more ‘atomic’, more ‘Blazing’,” advertising one-upmanship contest?
A simple answer
Again, a simpler answer… If you think outside the box. Rather than continuing to add stuff that just smothers the food, strip down to the original and sell what remains as clean, streamlined and nostalgic. Which certainly differentiates such offerings from ‘the pack’ these days. In fact there’s been a whole new movement out there started by Chick-Fil-A. Serve an iconic Crispy Chicken Breast Sandwich with maybe a few Pickle coins on a nice bun. Maybe a schmear of a light, familar-tasting Mayo-based sauce. When you get it right, folks will line up op around the clock.
Up to a few years ago, nobody cared much. Until Popeye’s decided come out head-to-mead with CFA, as if it was a contest. Within months, all the other major players had a stripped-down Crispy Chicken Sandwich, too. The writing was on the wall – right above the deep fryer.
Copy another’s success
The practice in the past has been to copy another’s successful product or approach. So, now, everybody has a Crispy Chicken Sandwich and they’re casting about aimlessly looking for the next new thing.
Well, the next thing may already have come along, moving unnoticed up the back stretch. It’s a quiet, dignified movement to upgrade simple but iconic Fast Foods that have otherwise been hyped all they can be, using other methods.
You can see the inspiration in the basic Chicken Sandwich. It’s like Fate had sighed, “Okay, boys (and girls). You’re not gona get it yourself, so here it is: Take a look at the lineups around the block at CFA at their simple, satisfying Crispy Chicken. There’s your problem. Your food has become too complicated, flavour-muddied and overbearingly (for many customers) spicy.”
Simple, subtle and ‘respectful’
As often happens, KFC has been experimenting with something new and refreshing: A quality upgrade on the humble Chicken Nugget.
The main component of traditional Nuggets, that some have derogatorily referred to as ‘pink slime’ – mechanically-deboned chicken purée. KFC is now proudly proclaimig it’s upgrading its Nuggets by switching to real, chunked, all-white Chicken breast meat. Like many players use for Tenders or so-called ‘bonless’ wings.
“People have been living in a nugget blandemic and settling for the same mediocre nuggets for far too long,” the official news release proclaims.”The fried chicken experts are empowering America to break up with bland and end it with cookie-cutter shapes and open their hearts and mouths to Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets.”
The strip-down? The new nuggets feature KFC’s original herbs and spices and nothing more. “Each juicy nugget is bursting with so much flavor it doesn’t require dipping, though that doesn’t mean you can’t! The new nuggets can be paired with any of your favorite KFC sauces, including KFC Sauce, Honey BBQ, Classic Ranch, Honey Mustard or Buffalo Ranch,” the release gently reminds diners – KFC hedging it’s bet.
Something that almost never happens: KFC is adding the new Nuggets directly to its permanent menu, without a long, careful test marketing process, and a lot of hmming and hawing.
How long will it take for the competition to copy-up?
Probably not very long. Though it always a few weeks or months for suppliers to change up their processes to start making a new base product – in this case, chicken chunks in place of stamped out minced chicken patties – in the hundreds of tons a year that customers such as KFC want to order them.
The new Nuggets will displace KFC’s Popcorn Chicken on the menu. That’s quite alright with me. Many’s the time I’ve crunched into a nice-looking Popcorn chunk to find it’s all breading and no Chicken. Would I pay more? Depends how much more. Too many questions still unanswered about the product.
On the plus side: I like the idea that the new boneless chicken nuggets will be breaded with KFC’s Original Recipe signature mix of herbs and spices. That doesn’t count as after-the-fact adornment we’re saying should be be eliminated. And it’s a great advantage that KFC – perhaps – doesn’t always take fair advantage of.
I’ve been thinking that these new nuggets might be the only KFC menu item I’d bother ordering down the road. They have all the features I want in Crispy Fried Chicken. And no waste bones. We’ll have to wait and see what other KFC aficionados have to say. Meanwhile, we’ll watch for the other players now offering copycat Crispy Chicken Sandwiches and see how they handle their Chicken Nugget futures.
Wouldn’t it be intriguing if other fans felt, like I do, that the new improved Chicken Nuggets represent the ulimate Crispy Chicken product form? And eventually pushed all the other legs, breasts, nuggets and wings off all the menus, as millennial and later generations’ demands for convenience and premium ingredients become louder and more insistent?
Muse on that…
~ Maggie J.