Popeyes is releasing a new sandwich, but this time it isn’t chicken. The chain is launching the Cajun Flounder Sandwich beginning on Thursday, February 11 across the US.
The sandwich consists of flaky Pacific flounder with Cajun seasoning on a toasted brioche bun with tartar sauce and the fan-favorite pickles from Popeyes’ chicken sandwich. It will retail for $4.49.
As an added perk, the restaurant is offering “sandwich insurance” to customers who try the new offering. For an extra 15 cents on launch day, customers ordering through the Popeyes app can purchase insurance guaranteeing that the chain will replace the fish sandwich with chicken if you don’t like it.
Popeyes joins many other fast-food chains in offering a fish sandwich, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Arby’s. Rival Chick-fil-A doesn’t currently have a fish sandwich on the menu, but it sold one in 2019 during Lent when chains often compete to win Catholic customers with non-meat options. Popeyes announcement comes only a week before the start of Lent, so the chain might be making a similar move.
Popeyes famously released a chicken sandwich in 2019 that became the fast food item of the year, leading to record sales and chicken sandwich wars between major face food brands. The competition is still ongoing, after KFC just released a new chicken sandwich and McDonald’s plans to roll out three new chicken sandwiches in late February, and Burger King was spotted testing out a chicken sandwich in October. Wendy’s also released a new “classic chicken sandwich” in October, replacing the older “homestyle chicken sandwich.”
The success of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich has likely kept sales strong as the pandemic led to decreasing sales across the industry. In the third quarter of 2020, Popeyes owner Restaurant Brands International reported sales were up 17.4%, even as sales declines at sibling brands Tim Hortons and Burger King.
Kevin Reilly: Fast food is cheap and convenient. But hidden in between the burgers and tacos are some “healthy” options: salads, grilled chicken, yogurts, oatmeal, power burritos. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? I spent a week eating nothing but these “healthy” fast foods and I lost six-and-a-half pounds. But even though I lost about a pound a day, it didn’t really go well.
I live in New York City, a place with every possible food you could want. Eating healthy here, it’s a breeze. But across America, there are more than 200,000 fast food joints, and they’re bringing in more than $200 billion a year in sales. And no matter where you go, you’re never far from a place like McDonald’s or Taco Bell. But in recent years, consumers want better, healthier choices, and the traditional fast food places have been losing customers to those fast casual healthy options.
The rules were pretty simple: Eat every major meal at a national fast-food chain and stick to the healthy options. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Chick-fil-A; nothing but them for a week. Yeah, I lost almost seven pounds, but let’s take a close look at the numbers.
On a normal day, I’m eating around 2,500 calories. An adult man should be having about 2,400 to 2,600 calories a day. But on this fast food plan, my calories plummeted. Most of these meals came in under 400 calories, and that was one of my first problems. I’d eat and just a couple hours later, I was starving. And I had days when I didn’t eat more than 1,000 calories.
Now, some of these meals were really good. My favorite was this grilled chicken market salad from Chick-fil-A. It had blueberries, strawberries, apples; it was delicious and it was actually healthy. However, a lot of the other salads from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s were loaded with salt, often more than 50% of what I needed for the entire day, from a salad. In fact, excess salt was a problem the entire week. I thought I had hit the jackpot with Taco Bell’s al Fresco menu. They take off all the cheese and mayo-based sauces and replace it with lettuce and pico de gallo. One night I got tacos, another night I got a power cantina burrito, and these were meals with more protein than usual. So, I felt like I was getting enough food. They were good, too good. It was all salt. In fact, just one burrito had almost as much salt as I needed in just one day. The American Heart Association says we should limit our sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day, but the ideal is closer to 1,500 milligrams a day, especially for a person like me with high blood pressure. But if you look at my sodium intake, it was high every day, yet I was barely getting the calories I needed. If I wanted to keep the sodium down, I was starving. If I wanted to feel full, salt through the roof. You see, that’s an issue in the fast food industry. Wendy’s even acknowledges on their website that there’s going to be a trade-off between salt and flavor.
It was weird. I didn’t feel healthy at all throughout the week, even though I was eating healthy foods and losing weight. And on the last day, I had this massive headache that was just infuriating. These places, they’re supposed to be tasty, cheap, and convenient. But it wasn’t cheap. Every healthy option was expensive, but left me hungry. For eight grilled nuggets and this tiny kale salad at Chick-fil-A, $12. For the power Mediterranean salad at Wendy’s, it was almost $8, yet I could get a cheeseburger, nuggets, fries, and a soda for only $4. That brings me to another problem. Walk into McDonald’s and you get hit with that sweet, sweet french fry smell, and I had to get a salad.
Would I recommend this to anyone? Nope, unless you’re stuck on the road with no other options. Though there was a bright spot: breakfast at Subway. They have these egg-white-and-cheese sandwiches, which I got covered in spinach and peppers. And let me tell you, it was good. But after all this, I just want a cheeseburger.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2018.
Here are all the fast-food releases customers have loved in 2020, so far.
Jack in the Box brought back its fan-favorite Tiny Tacos in January.
Arguably one of the chain’s most famous menu items, Jack in the Box delighted fans when it announced Tiny Tacos would make their return to menus nationwide in January. QSR Magazine called the Tiny Taco’s return “highly-anticipated” and referred to the item as a “fan-favorite.”
A miniature version of the chain’s regular tacos, Tiny Tacos can be ordered plain or “loaded” with cheese sauce, shredded lettuce, and Jack in the Box’s taco sauce.
In February, KFC launched its polarizing fried chicken and donuts sandwich nationwide.
After testing out the calorie-packed creation in select cities back in 2019, KFC launched its donut fried chicken sandwich nationwide earlier this year. Though only available for a limited time, the sandwiches quickly captured the attention of fast-food lovers nationwide.
Described as “viral” and “controversial” by Business Insider, the overall consensus of our team of taste testers was that “although the chicken-and-doughnuts combo tasted like sweet, artery-clogging death, it was also the most delicious new item that KFC has come out with in a long time.”
Taco Bell released a new Grilled Cheese Burrito in July.
Reactions on Twitter to the menu item are also overwhelmingly positive, with one user calling it “the best burrito ever,” while another said, “I have an insatiable hunger that can only be satisfied by Taco Bell grilled cheese burrito.”
It’s easy to see why the new menu item has become a fan favorite — the cheesy burrito only costs $2.99.
McDonald’s brought out a spicy version of its iconic chicken McNuggets in September, to much fanfare.
The new limited-time-only menu item was thought to be in response to the flourishing market for fast-food chicken products, as well as the smash success of Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets.
“We’re thrilled with the positive response to these limited-time offerings,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “If our customers truly can’t get enough, there’s always a chance we’ll bring limited-time menu items back in the future.”
McDonald’s and Travis Scott’s “Cactus Jack” meal collaboration broke the internet after its release in early September.
The “Cactus Jack” meal includes a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, plus a medium fry with barbecue sauce, and a Sprite with extra ice for $6. Fans went wild for the meal, as well as the musician’s line of McDonald’s-themed merchandise.
“It’s been so lit, some of our restaurants have temporarily sold out of some of the ingredients in the meal,” McDonald’s said. “We’re working closely with our suppliers, distributors, and franchisees to resupply impacted restaurants as quickly as possible.”
Shake Shack’s Hot Chick’n sandwich was released in September.
Following the smash success of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich last year, many chains released new iterations of their own this year.
After three years of Shake Shack fans asking the chain to bring back its Hot Chick’n sandwich, the New York-based chain finally delivered. On September 1, 2020, Shake Shack announced it would be bringing back its spicy sandwich in either hot, extra hot, or fire, plus hot chicken bites and hot and spicy cheese fries.
“Like with the Shack burger, a major factor is the potato bun. There may be breads on this earth just as good, but there are few that are better. The sandwich comes with a slaw that neither subtracts nor adds too much for me,” wrote TC Fleming of the Dallas Observer. “The full picture does add up to an enticing item we should all be glad to welcome back.”
Grubstreet and the Washington Post both reviewed the hot chicken sandwich favorably, although both outlets said the spice level could have been kicked up a notch to truly live up to its name.
Also in September, Whataburger released a limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.
After its release on September 29, 2020, fans of regional chain Whataburger were quick to shout out the new limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.
Shelby Stuart, a writer for Chron, wrote, “Because of its impeccable spice and heat, I think the sandwich can compete for the top spot among fast spicy chicken sandwiches, right up there next to Popeyes’ famed offering. All other food chains and their spicy sandwiches are sub-par — and maybe this is the Texan in me, but what Whataburger has done puts everyone else to shame.”
People on Twitter also praised the new menu item, with one user calling it “a better spicy chicken sandwich than @PopeyesChicken” and another saying, “Now this is a GREAT Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Others need to take note how this thing taste! Spicy, flavorful wonderful. Hope they make it permanent.”
Chick-fil-A began testing a brand new chicken sandwich – the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich – in September, as well.
Chick-fil-A, which only offers a regular chicken sandwich, a deluxe version, and a spicy version, delighted fans with the release of its Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich in select markets in South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.
While the menu item has yet to be expanded to other states, some online reviewers managed to get their hands on the new offering.
YouTube reviewer PapiEats was a big fan of the new sandwich and said the pimento was perfectly spicy and that the sandwich had “tasty jalapenos.”
The following month, Wendy’s dropped its own spicy chicken sandwich.
In an age where seemingly every chain is dropping a new fried chicken sandwich, Wendy’s also threw its hat into the ring this year. A different variation on the chain’s original spicy chicken sandwich, the spicy crispy chicken nixed the tomatoes and added a layer of mayonnaise to a crispy chicken patty.
While the sandwich didn’t make as many waves as the Popeyes chicken sandwich last year or even the multiple new sandwiches this year, Wendy’s still held its own among a lengthy list of new releases this year that simply went unnoticed.
According to data from Google Trends, searches for Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches increased after the new version was released.
Following the huge success of McDonald’s Travis Scott meal in September, the chain launched another celebrity collaboration with J Balvin in October.
Available through November 1, J Balvin’s McDonald’s meal included a few classic favorites — a Big Mac with no pickles, a medium fry, an Oreo McFlurry, and ketchup. For customers who ordered the J Balvin meal through the McDonald’s app, they would get the Oreo McFlurry for free.
While some fans were left puzzled by the meal’s simplicity and the choice to remove pickles from the chain’s iconic Big Mac, it created quite a buzz online regardless, with hundreds of tweets talking about it.
In October, everyone was talking about Dunkin’s Spicy Ghost Pepper donut.
However, while the internet was buzzing about the donut — Dunkin’s tweet announcing the new item got over 800 likes and 500 quote tweets — actual reactions were mixed. Some were initially scared by the donut’s spicy appearance, yet in reality, many found the donut mostly sweet with a slight kick, rather than a hot, eye-watering experience.
“I can’t believe it’s happening,” Matt, who runs McRibGate, a website dedicated to McRib lovers with the aim of getting McDonald’s to bring the item back, told Business Insider.
Customers on social media immediately went to social media to share photos of them in line to get their McRibs. However, Insider found that the McRib we tried, though still tasty, was a little under-sauced.
Jack in the Box’s new chicken sandwich lineup consists of the Cluck Sandwich and the Cluck Deluxe Sandwich.
The Cluck Sandwich comes with a crispy chicken fillet, pickles, and a mystery sauce, all held together with a brioche bun.
The deluxe version has the same bun and chicken combination, with the added bonus of mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, hickory smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese. According to Jack in the Box, these extra ingredients are a “classic hit with consumers.”
Jack in the Box has also partnered with singer and actress Becky G for a social media #JacksNewChickenDance campaign to help launch the new chicken sandwich lineup.
The Cluck Sandwich is $4.99, while the Cluck Deluxe is $6.99. Both can be upgraded to the combo version for an additional $1.