Taco Bell has found a side door entry into the chicken sandwich wars—and Popeyes has thoughts [Updated]

Product shot of the regular and spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco on a purple table
Image: Taco Bell

Update, February 25, 2021: So, we all know that fast food joints, Taco Bell very much included, are all releasing chicken sandwiches (or, uh, Chicken Sandwich Tacos) in order to compete directly with Popeyes, which kicked off the trend in 2019. Popeyes knows this, too, of course, which is why the brand can’t help but troll its late-to-the-party competitors at every turn. Last week, when McDonald’s launched “CHKNDrop.com” to provide fans a sneak peek of its new chicken sandwich, Popeyes bought up 50 URLs with nearly identical spelling in order to capture anyone who made a typo and beckon them away from McDonald’s by providing a coupon for a free Popeyes chicken sandwich instead. And this week, Adweek explains, Popeyes posted a TikTok video not-so-subtly mocking Taco Bell’s “chicken sandwich taco” concept by providing a tutorial on how to turn a Popeyes sandwich into a taco.

It’s a golden age of fast food marketing, folks. Also, for being nothing more than a gag, the Popeyes chicken taco looks as promising as the Taco Bell one to me. This is a perfectly fine configuration for fried chicken to take! More on this corporate snowball fight as it develops.

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Original post, February 22, 2021: Pretty much all innovation in 2021 that isn’t vaccine-related has been fast-food-chicken-sandwich-related. KFC kicked off the year with a capable riff on the internet-breaking Popeyes Chicken Sandwich. Boston Market’s own unveiling was less than impressive. Wendy’s Jalapeno Popper Chicken Sandwich, a bit of a non sequitur in the crispy chicken arena, was middling. But now, Taco Bell has swooped in with an announcement that just might turn some chicken-weary heads: the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco is coming soon to a Taco Bell near you.

“Is this disruptive, delicious new item a sandwich or a taco, you ask?” reads a press release sent to The Takeout. “Well, it’s a sandwich AND a taco. And it doesn’t have to explain itself to be this delicious.” Fair enough.

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco has only 3-4 elements, so at least Taco Bell is trying to keep things simple with its new hybrid concept. It starts with a piece of “premium all-white-meat crispy chicken, marinated in jalapeño buttermilk, then seasoned with bold Mexican spices and rolled in a crunchy tortilla chip coating.” A promising start. That chicken is then served in what Taco Bell only describes as “a puffy bread, shaped in an iconic taco form.” Intriguing! The whole thing is topped off with a “flavorful signature creamy chipotle sauce.” Customers can order both a regular and spicy version, the latter of which comes with pickled jalapeño slices. Dare we say it? This thing sounds kinda good. Taco Bell has found its own side door into the Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Wars, and while it’s no Mexican Pizza, the Sandwich Taco might end up surprising us all.

Starting March 11, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco will be available only in two test markets: Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The nationwide rollout will happen sometime “later this year.” If any of our readers manage to grab one during the testing phase, tell us everything! I long to know what “puffy bread in iconic taco form” tastes like.

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Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

bigjojobongo
bigjojobongo

Is a taco a sandwich?

I cant imagine that hasn’t been discussed here and I just missed it.