Burger King is hoping some heat will help it finish off the summer with strong sales.
After chicken fries helped boost same-store sales 6.7 percent in the second quarter, Burger King is introducing a spicy version of the cult favorite across the U.S. this week. The thin strips of fried chicken are flavored with cayenne and black pepper and were created to appeal to “spice seekers,” said Eric Hirschhorn, the burger chain’s chief marketing officer.
“We wanted to make sure it delivered for people who like spicy food,” he said. “The idea is that it’s so spicy it might actually offend you.”
The new Fiery Chicken Fries, served in boxes of nine, will be sold for at least a month as Burger King tries to build on the success of an item that’s drawn younger diners to its restaurants. Chicken fries were introduced in 2005 and stayed on the menu for about seven years before being pulled. They returned as limited-time item in 2014, propelled by inclusion in a BuzzFeed post entitled “35 Foods From Your Childhood That Are Extinct Now.” In March, Burger King once again made chicken fries a permanent fixture.
Restaurant Brands International Inc.’s Burger King, which spent about a year developing the new recipe, isn’t alone in trying to boost sales with spicy fare, which is increasingly popular among Americans. While McDonald’s Corp. struggled with its Mighty Wings, Wendy’s Co. recently sold a Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Ghost Pepper french fries. Subway Restaurants has sold Sriracha chicken and steak melts.
The rise of Sriracha and the popularity of chicken wings have pushed spicy food into the American mainstream in recent years. This year, for the first time, a majority of Americans said they’re seeking out spicy food, according to Technomic Inc., a research firm.
“Spiciness is tremendously important today for a majority of Americans,” said Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at Technomic. “It’s especially appealing to millennials and Gen Z.”