The king of burgers is frying up more chicken these days.
Burger King Worldwide Inc. will introduce the Chicken Big King -- a double-decker fried-chicken patty sandwich with lettuce and pickles -- across the U.S. on April 19, Alex Macedo, president of the Miami-based company’s North American unit, said in a phone interview.
The new sandwich, essentially a chicken version of the Big King hamburger, was tested in markets, including Indiana, earlier this year where it sold “extremely well,” Macedo said.
“As beef prices have increased significantly over the last 20 years or so consumption has gone down,” he said. “Chicken is growing in consumption quite a lot.”
Burger King has been trying to lure diners and boost sales with new fare, upgraded restaurant Wi-Fi service and a mobile-phone payment option. U.S. and Canada same-store sales fell 0.9 percent last year after rising 3.5 percent in 2012. In November, Burger King introduced the new Big King hamburger -- two beef patties with lettuce, onions and sauce for $3.69 -- that’s a close copy of McDonald’s Corp.’s Big Mac.
Along with the $3.59 Chicken Big King, Burger King has recently rolled out new poultry fare such as a $1 rodeo-chicken sandwich topped with fried onion rings, and a $3.79 spicy-chicken sandwich.
Burger King rose 2.2 percent to $25.96 at the close in New York yesterday. The shares have gained 14 percent this year.
Restaurant chains are advertising chicken more as beef and pork costs surge. Wholesale beef prices have gained 11 percent this year and 51 percent in the past five years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prices reached $2.4406 a pound on March 18, the most since the USDA began using its current measure in 2004.
While McDonald’s last month started selling a new bacon clubhouse burger, it also introduced two clubhouse chicken sandwiches -- crispy and grilled versions topped with grilled onions, bacon and cheddar. Earlier this week, Domino’s Pizza Inc. announced it’s selling bites of fried chicken covered in pizza toppings such as bacon and tomato.
There are more than 13,600 Burger King locations worldwide, including about 7,400 in the U.S. and Canada.