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Food & Drink

Yum! Brands Gets Ready to Try Selling Chicken Without the Colonel

Grilled chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken

Photograph by Darron Cummings/AP Photo

Grilled chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken

As KFC loses steam in the U.S., could parent company Yum! Brands (YUM) be working on a new chicken chain to better compete against the fast-growing Chick-fil-A? That’s the speculation around a new sandwich restaurant the company has opened in Arlington, Tex., called Super Chix.

For its part, Yum insists this is merely a one-off location for a new concept it’s testing for the overseas market. And the chicken sandwich shop isn’t the only pilot program. A spokeswoman said Yum will “be exploring others in the near future for international purposes, including a Banh Shop (Asian subs), also in the Dallas area.” That’s right, the company behind KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell is weighing a move into banh mi—but fast-food diners in the U.S. will have to travel abroad or head to Dallas for a taste.

It seems odd that Yum would test Super Chix and Banh Shop in Texas if there are no plans to expand the concept in the U.S., but there is a plausible explanation: Yum’s New Concept team—led by Scott Bergren, chief executive of Pizza Hut and Yum’s chief innovation officer—is based in Dallas, so turning Texas into a test market makes it easier to monitor operations and product development.

Super Chix’s menu makes it look a lot like a poultry-focused version of the Five Guys hamburger chain, and Ad Age compared it to KFC’s nemesis, Chick-fil-A. Customers start with a basic chicken burger and get to pick toppings, along with the expected options of fries or chicken tenders. The marketing seems more premium than KFC; Super Chix heralds its signature product as “the last true chicken sandwich.” It’s just not the last American chicken sandwich.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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