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Why the next fast-food chicken sandwich war may be a fake one


Vegan chicken quick-serve restaurants like San Antonio, Texas-based Project Pollo are aiming directly at Chick-fil-A and its fried chicken sandwich as the plant-based meat industry rises against one of fast-food’s recent best-selling menu items.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In an iconic scene from 1970’s film “Five Easy Pieces,” a young Jack Nicholson orders a chicken sandwich without the chicken.

The waitress is incredulous. “You want me to hold the chicken?” she retorts.

Half a century later, this nix-the-chicken request would hardly register an eye-roll. While the chicken sandwich war that kicked off back in summer 2018 between Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A has not reached an official cease-fire, and has spread to additional fast food giants, a new contender is poised to slay its competitors on the battlefield: a chicken sandwich that, well, holds the chicken.

Could a vegan chicken sandwich war be on the way? Impossible Foods and Beyond have both recently added plant-based chicken options for restaurants and grocery stores — just this week, Impossible Foods debuted its first chicken nugget product; in July, Beyond Meat launched chicken tenders for restaurants — an earlier effort to sell frozen chicken strips in stores was discontinued in 2019, with the company noting at the time, “Unfortunately, our Chicken Strips weren’t delivering the same plant-based meat experience as some of our more popular products.”

If the local vegan fast-food scene around the U.S. is any indication, the idea may yet makes its way up the national food chain.

‘The future of chicken’ vs. Chick-fil-A

During the past year, Texans who pull into a familiar fast-food drive-thru craving a fried chicken sandwich might instead encounter a Project Pollo, a new quick serve chain that serves soy-based fried “Chikn” sandwiches and other plant-based comfort foods such as mac and cheese, wings and burgers. Since launching as a food cart at a San Antonio brewery in September 2020, Project Pollo has expanded its fledging empire with phenomenal speed, launching a new location roughly every month. When the company recently announced on Instagram that it would be taking over defunct Whataburgers in Houston and Corpus Christi in the coming fall, a growing cult following with handles like @vegan_dad_bod_killer and @nosh.on.plants erupted in jubilant emojis.

Impossible Foods’ chicken substitute at Fuku

Source: Katelyn Perry

Every shuttered traditional fast-food outlet that relaunches as a Project Pollo, from a Church’s Fried Chicken to a Jack in the Box, represents a single victory in CEO Lucas Bradbury’s grand strategy: 100 locations by 2024. In the quest for world, or at least national, domination, Bradbury — who grew up as a Kansas farm boy raising chickens and cattle and went on to work in many fast-food industry executive positions — plans to drive Chick-fil-A out of business entirely within the next two decades.

Bradbury, who drained his bank accounts and sold his house to finance…



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