Just as I wrote my last blog post pondering who else would join the great chicken sandwich battle of 2019, I got an answer.

Predictably, McDonald’s rolled out its version of a premium chicken sandwich, as well as a new chicken tender product.

I say this was predictable, because just several months ago, the board of the National Owners Association (NOA), a group of McDonald’s franchisees, wrote to its membership that a premium chicken sandwich should be the restaurant chain’s top priority. This was written in hopes that McDonald’s could fend off growing competition from Chick-fil-A.

But then Popeyes beat McDonald’s to the punch, came up with an ultra-popular chicken sandwich, prompting this whole sandwich battle.

In a press release issued on September 5, McDonald’s introduced two new chicken products that are to be available for a limited time. Here is what the company had to say about the two products:

  • Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders: Picture our classic Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, battered and breaded to perfection, hand-tossed and perfectly sauced to order in our new, mouthwatering Spicy BBQ glaze that contains just a hint of jalapeno.
  • Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich: This BBQ staple features our classic Buttermilk Crispy fillet made with all-white meat and served on a sesame seed bun with slivered onions, pickles and topped with that same smoky, sweet, with medium heat Spicy BBQ glaze.

Initial reception

The new McDonald’s products were first available at restaurants on September 11. I have not had the chicken sandwich yet, but I read a few reviews with interest.

Yahoo Finance’s headline reads: “McDonald’s enters the sandwich wars – and it’s no Popeyes.” Reviewer Heidi Chung wrote: “Unfortunately, the smoky medium-heat spicy BBQ sauce fell short of expectations. The BBQ flavor was decent, but it was lacking the promised heat factor. Between the two products, the sandwich was the better tasting item, as the tenders failed to wow.”

Business Insider’s Irene Jiang was a little more brutal with her assessment. “McDonald’s spicy BBQ chicken sandwich should have stayed in the test kitchen where it belongs. Its accompanying spicy BBQ chicken tenders were even more disappointing.”

As someone who hasn’t tried the new products from McDonald’s, all I can say is “Bless their hearts. At least they’re trying.”

That may sound condescending, but I don’t mean it to be. McDonald’s has a more diverse menu, and more locations with which to deal. Plus, McDonald’s customers have greater expectations for speed than do the customers of Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

However, there is also the stigma that McDonald’s continually faces.

Some of us may remember that old Steve Martin comedy routine in which he has a theory that all McDonald’s food is the same. Martin says at the back of the kitchen there is a “big vat” of “stuff,” and molds are used to make food (and other things) from that stuff.

“(Sound effect), hamburger. (Same sound effect), malt. (Again, the same sound effect), paper box. (One more sound effect), here’s your change. Thank you,” Martin joked.

While I do believe McDonald’s has done much to improve its image since that comedy routine was first performed, it seems unrealistic for the chain – or its customers -- to expect to create a sandwich superior to all others. But as long as there is a demand for the sandwich with its customers, and it adds to the overall demand for chicken, the fast food chain should be commended.