Hundreds of Subway, Dunkin’, and Burger King locations closed in 2020 – here are the chains with the most closures

Subway Restaurant
Subway assembly line.

  • More than 10% of all US restaurant locations closed during the pandemic.
  • Dunkin’, Burger King, and Subway were the hardest hit large chains.
  • But others like Domino’s and Starbucks added locations last year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

10% of all restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, including hundreds of locations of major chains, according to food industry research firm Dataessential’s new report.

No sector of the industry was safe. Closures affected fast food, fast casual, casual, and fine dining. Subway closed more stores than any other large chain examined by Dataessential, closing out the period with 1,557 fewer stores, a 6.6% loss. Dunkin’ lost a net 559 stores, the report said.

Read more: Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol answers 9 questions about the chain’s future including the fight for delivery profits, menu innovation, and franchising

Even fast food staples were hit by the pandemic. Burger King closed 319 locations, while McDonald’s closed 173. However, that only amounts to a 1.2% loss for McDonald’s, which still has well over 13,000 locations. Baskin Robbin’s, Hardees, and Steak N Shake each closed restaurants, while Little Caesar’s bucked the positive trend for pizza chains this year, closing 120 locations.

Some restaurants did manage to open new locations. Domino’s came out on top, opening 358 new stores. This isn’t necessarily surprising: pizza and wings were hailed as early winners in the pandemic as Americans increasingly ordered from brands that were already set up to accommodate delivery, like Papa John’s and Wingstop.

The rest of the pizza industry saw huge losses, up to $30 billion in March and $50 billion in April. The trend doesn’t apply to all pizza chains, though, as Little Caesar’s shows.

Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Chipotle all also all ended the year with over 200 additional stores apiece. Each of these chains has invested in drive-thrus throughout the pandemic.

Starbucks is making efforts to improve drive-thru efficiency with digital drive-thru screens for ordering and handheld devices for baristas to input orders on. Taco Bell cut more than a dozen items in 2020 to make drive-thru lines move more quickly, and sales grew as a result. Chipotle is opening hundreds of Chipotlane drive-thru lanes, with plans to more than double locations.

Most restaurants that added locations have embraced drive-thrus and mobile ordering, while chains that didn’t suffered, though this doesn’t explain every chain.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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7 sneaky ways fast-food restaurants get you to spend more money

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This is a No. 3 from McDonald’s: a burger, fries, and a drink. It costs $11 in New York City.

Fast food is supposed to be cheap and convenient, but do you ever find yourself spending more on fast food than you expected to?

You’re not alone. According to one study, Americans spend about $1,200 on fast food every year. Places like McDonald’s and Burger King do everything in their power to get you to spend more money, and it turns out fast food isn’t as cheap as you think.

1. The menus.

Fast food is all about the deals. Value meals, combos, coupons – oh my. But the seemingly simple menu actually hides most of the options. Compare a fast-food menu to a fine-dining-restaurant menu. The restaurant menu is simple and not very stimulating, but the fast-food menu is a noisy mess of options and categories, and fast-food restaurants grab your attention with bright reds or oranges along with big appetizing photos of their food. There’s a hierarchy. The pictures are big, but the prices are small. They keep your attention on the items that cost more by showing these really big on the left side where you start reading. You’re not wondering if that burger is worth $6, you’re just looking at those big juicy patties.

Hans Taparia: Food pictures, they light up the brain, you know, particularly when you’re hungry. Large food pictures for a food company are key.

Narrator: That’s Hans Taparia. He’s a health-food entrepreneur and a professor of business and society at NYU.

Hans Taparia: The playbook has been around for a while, I would say since the ’80s, which has been centered on simplicity, cheap, and bold and bright.

2. The pricing format and dollar menu.

Narrator: Fast-food restaurants use other tricks too, like not showing a dollar sign or using a 9.79 or 0.89 pricing format. Pretty much $10, but you still think it’s $9 because you read left to right. But what about the dollar menu, right? Well, dollar and value menus do exist, but they’re often small and far off to one corner where they are harder to see.

Hans Taparia: And if you buy multiple items off the value menu, it won’t necessarily be cheaper than a Happy Meal. So it’s not necessarily less profitable for them, but it accomplishes two things. It keeps the consumer coming, and it’s catering to a consumer that is increasingly poorer in the case of these conventional fast-food outlets.

3. The combo.

Narrator: And even though fast-food menus are big, their confusing layouts make it difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. It’s easiest to read the menu when you’re close to the counter. But then it’s time to order. The pressure is mounting, and you just pick that big, bright, juicy No. 3, and that No. 3 is where the real secret of the menu lies: the combo. The star of the menu is the combo meal. You can order an entree, a side, and a drink just by saying one easy number. It takes a lot less time to order the No. 6 than a 10-piece nugget, medium fry, and a medium drink, but have you actually done the math to see if that combo is saving you any money? Take McDonald’s. If you buy a No. 3, it costs $10.39, but if you were to buy the Double Quarter Pounder, medium fry, and medium drink, it costs $10.48. You’re only saving 9 cents, and often you’ll end up with things you didn’t even want in portions that are way bigger than what’s healthy.

Hans Taparia: And creating this perception, which is quite real actually, that the per-ounce cost of something bigger is lower, and so I’m just getting better value for my money, forget the fact that I’m buying 32 ounces of soda, which has half a cup of sugar.

Narrator: The convenience of ordering a preselected meal gives fast-food restaurants control over what you order. Combine this with multiple size options and cheap upgrades, and it’s hard to walk away with a small in every category.

4. Add-ons.

When was the last time you went to a place like Taco Bell and just bought one taco? Fast-food restaurants make more money from customers buying multiple items. Items like soda have a much higher profit margin compared to burgers, so fast-food companies do everything they can to get you to buy a drink.

5. What you want, when you want it.

They’ve added things like 24-hour locations and all-day breakfast to make sure you can get whatever you want whenever you want it. If you think you have more control at an ordering kiosk, you’re wrong. According to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, customers spend more on average at kiosks because they linger longer. Guess what those kiosks also have. Lots and lots of pictures. And that’s just the tip of the, um, Frosty.

6. Free food.

Fast-food companies are experts at getting customers in the door. They advertise the most outrageous deals on signs, posters, and TV commercials. They can get you in the door for some “buy one, get one free” nuggets, you’ll probably buy a drink too. Oh, look! You can make that a meal and add fries for just a dollar more. Companies also use brand tie-ins like Doritos Locos Tacos and coupons that expire in a week, like the ones you may have seen on the bottom of your receipt, not to mention app reward points or special daily deals found only in the app, just like the old-fashioned punch card. You’ll eat at a restaurant more often if each purchase brings you closer to free food.

Hans Taparia: Any one thing in isolation itself may not have a huge impact. The power of marketing is when you overlay things.

Narrator: But there’s a deeper issue here. Fast food isn’t as cheap as it used to be. According to Bloomberg, the average price of a fast-food burger has increased by 54% in the past decade, outpacing fast-casual and fine-dining restaurants. But fast food is sometimes the only option in low-income food deserts, and your environment has a big impact on your health and weight.

7. The more affordable option?

Healthy fast-casual offerings are often so much more expensive than fast food that they no longer target the same demographic, especially if you’re feeding a family. KFC will give you a lot more food per dollar than an organic-salad chain. Fast-food restaurants are able to lure consumers into spending more money on large unhealthy portions because it’s more affordable than healthier options.

Fast food can be cheap and convenient, but you have to fight off all the psychological tricks that are engineered to get you to spend more money. You shouldn’t be paying a premium for low-quality unhealthy food.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Fast-food workers in LA face unmasked customers and unsafe workplaces, and are punished for speaking up about COVID-19, a damning new report says

McDonald's worker
A McDonald’s in Littlerock, California has been linked to 32 COVID-19 cases, the UCLA and UC Berkeley researchers said.

  • Fast-food workers in LA are “especially vulnerable” to COVID-19, a new report says.
  • Some restaurants in Los Angeles County aren’t following COVID-19 rules and punish staff for speaking out, the report found.
  • Restaurants sometimes didn’t tell workers when colleagues caught the virus, according to complaints.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Fast-food workers in Los Angeles are facing unsafe conditions at work, and outbreaks among staff at restaurants are threatening the area’s ability to recover from the pandemic, a new report says.

Fast-food workers in LA County are “especially vulnerable” to COVID-19 community transmission, the report by UCLA and UC Berkeley found. They often face unmasked customers and unsafe workplaces, the groups said.

Workers aren’t protected when they speak up, and some are even punished, researchers wrote.

And the demographics of the fast-food industry means that women and minority workers have been hardest hit. The LA County fast-food industry has almost 150,000 restaurant workers, the vast majority of whom are women and workers of color, the report, conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said.

Staff say they weren’t told when their coworkers were infected

In summer 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) inspected more than 2,000 restaurants and found that a third didn’t follow physical distancing protocols, while 44% didn’t follow face mask regulations.

Fast-food restaurants in the county had at least 59 COVID-19 outbreaks between July and December 2020, affecting as many as 338 workers, the UCLA and UC Berkeley researchers said, citing data from the LACDPH.

In total, around 15% of the county’s documented coronavirus workplace outbreaks were at fast-food restaurants, they said.

But workers often don’t know how many COVID-19 cases have been linked to their workplace “because employers do not disclose when employees test positive,” they wrote.

A McDonald’s in Littlerock, California has been linked to 32 COVID-19 cases, the researchers said, citing complaints to local authorities. Workers said they couldn’t socially distance at the restaurant, and that management tried to hide infections and pressure staff to work while sick.

“Even though there have been many cases of COVID-19 among coworkers at this McDonald’s, I have never been notified that I was in close contact with anyone,” one worker wrote in a complaint.

Workers went on strike multiple times to demand improved safety protocols, but said they faced retaliation and had their hours cut, per the complaints.

McDonald’s operator Andrew Marroquin told Insider the restaurant had “rigorous policies” to protect staff and customers and would work with the LACDPH to comply with COVID-19 guidance.

“We are deeply disappointed in these inaccurate allegations which do not reflect what is actually happening in our restaurant,” Marroquin said.

When a COVID-19 case is confirmed in a restaurant, the company immediately closes it to sanitize the restaurant and notify both local health authorities and other employees, he said. The company supports staff with paid time-off during the entirety of their illness, he added.

 

Staff also sanitize the restaurants on a nightly basis and sanitize and disinfect commonly-touched areas throughout the day, Marroquin said. Staff are given gloves and masks and the company conducts wellness and temperature checks before each shift, he said.

A worker at another LA fast-food restaurant said six people were sick with COVID-19, but the employer didn’t share this information with staff, according to another complaint cited in the report.

“We had a strike at the store, and instead of listening to our concerns, they terminated us,” the worker said.

In a survey by UC Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center, 44% of food service workers said at least one of their coworkers had contracted the virus, and 54% said they interacted with 10 or more unmasked people in one shift. More than a third said they weren’t given mandatory training on COVID-19 safety protocols.

Fast-food workers were already vulnerable

“COVID-19 exacerbates the risks already faced by fast-food workers,” the UCLA and UC Berkeley researchers said.

LA County has around 9,000 fast-food establishments with 150,000 workers, making up almost 4% of the county’s total workforce, they said.

Almost 70% of these workers are women, and 90% are people of color, with more than 70% Latinx, the researchers said. People of color have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, research shows.

In addition, fast-food workers are more likely to be living in poverty. Fast-food workers nationally are twice as likely as other workers to fall below the federal poverty line, and fast-food workers in LA County are one and half times more likely to be uninsured than the workforce as a whole, the UCLA and UC Berkeley researchers said.

Fast-food workers are also three times more likely than the national average to get public transport to work and are also more likely to live in larger households, the report said.

“This means that a worksite outbreak raises the risk for community spread in dense working-class areas of Los Angeles,” Tia Koonse, legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center, said.

Some fast-food companies across the US are offering employees perks if they receive the coronavirus vaccine. These include Darden Restaurants, Shake Shack, Noodles & Company, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Sexual harassment ‘will not be tolerated’ at McDonald’s, its CEO said, after a report detailed claims of harassment against female workers across the US

Chris Kempczinski McDonald's
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company will take action against allegations of sexual harassment.

  • Hundreds of McDonald’s staff have faced sexual harassment at work, senior attorney Gillian Thomas told CBS.
  • One worker told CBS a shift manager called her “ugly” and grabbed her breasts with kitchen tongs.
  • McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said sexual harassment “has no place in any McDonald’s restaurant.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

McDonald’s will take action following allegations of sexual harassment by its staff, its CEO Chris Kempczinski said Sunday, after CBS released a wide-ranging report about the fast-food giant.

Hundreds of female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment at McDonald’s restaurants, resulting in up to 100 lawsuits and discrimination charges, Gillian Thomas, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS. In some cases, the women were as young as 15 years old, she said.

Thomas said that the “food service industry generally is one of the worst for sexual harassment claims.”

CBS Sunday Morning spoke to four women who had filed either discrimination charges or lawsuits against McDonald’s corporate restaurants or franchises. All said that they didn’t recall receiving training on how to report workplace sexual harassment.

In a letter to franchisees, suppliers, and employees on Sunday, Kempczinski said that “sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for as a system.”

The company was taking the allegations “very seriously,” he said.

“Any person who steps forward to report concerns or issues deserves our utmost respect,” he added.

He said McDonald’s would review its current policies and programs regarding workplace safety, and would define a set of global brand standards later this year, taking into account feedback from employees and franchises.

“Let me say plainly: every single person working under the Arches must have a safe and respectful work environment,” he wrote.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for as a system. It has no place in any McDonald’s restaurant, and it will not be tolerated.”

Employees say they were verbally and sexually harassed

Jamelia Fairley told CBS a new colleague at the corporate-owned McDonalds she worked at in Florida started making inappropriate comments and touching her in late 2018.

“First he was like, ‘You have nice hair,’ started touching my hair,” Fairley said. “Then he was like, physical; then he actually started grabbing my butt.”

She said he did it to other women, too.

After reporting it to both a supervisor and the general manager, the behavior continued, Fairley said.

“It even got worse, to the point where he pushed me, like, he grabbed me into his groin area,” she told CBS. “Managers were standing there watching him do it, like, and they didn’t do nothing about it.”

The worker was ultimately transferred to another store, Fairley said.

Meanwhile, Eve Cervantez, an employment lawyer, told CBS that a shift manager at a McDonald’s franchise restaurant in Michigan was a “serial predator.”

“He harassed, you know, every woman who was there, basically,” Cervantez, who is suing both McDonald’s and the franchise, said.

Emily Anibal, who began working at that restaurant in 2016 aged 16, told CBS the shift manager made comments or touched a colleague “pretty much every shift, for most of the shift.”

Kat Barber started working at the same restaurant in 2017 aged 18. The same shift manager told her she was “fat,” “ugly,” and “a c***,” she told CBS.

He also sexually harassed her, she said. “The tongs that we used to make the food, he’d use those to, like, grab my breasts,” she said.

Barber said she reported the behavior to the general manager and “normally would either get a laugh, [or] get told that I was being dramatic.”

Anibal and Barber both quit their jobs at the restaurant. Barber said it impacted her personal life and gave her anxiety about whether it would happen again.

McDonald’s told CBS it makes training available to its franchisees and has a hotline available for workers to anonymously express concerns and report harassment.

But former McDonald’s shift leader Delisha Rivers told Insider’s Kate Taylor that she struggled to report harassment to the company after a manager attempted to pressure her into sexual acts in exchange for cash and a raise. Rivers says she called multiple divisions and none were able to offer her assistance.

Insider has contacted McDonald’s for comment.

Florida McDonald’s workers filed a $500 million sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company in 2020, just a year after Michigan McDonald’s workers filed a complaint claiming the fast-food giant failed to address a “systemic problem” of harassment, Insider’s Kate Taylor reported.

Over the past four years, McDonald’s employees have filed more than 50 sexual-harassment complaints.

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Walmart is looking for a new ad agency

Hi and welcome to Insider Advertising for March 1. I’m senior advertising reporter Lauren Johnson, and here’s what’s going on:

If this email was forwarded to you, sign up here for your daily insider’s guide to advertising and media.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Drop me a line at LJohnson@insider.com or on Twitter at @LaurenJohnson.


walmart new test stores
A Walmart personal shopper using the handheld device.

Walmart will shop around for an agency to handle its US media business, one of the ad industry’s biggest prizes

Read the story.


McDonald's PLT Canada
McDonald’s previously paired with Beyond Meat to offer a plant-based burger in Canada.

Beyond Meat just signed a multi-year deal with McDonald’s on the McPlant Burger, and said it would also create plant-based menus for Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut

Read the story.


atypical netflix
Keir Gilchrist and Nik Dodani appear on “Atypical.”

Netflix’s diversity study revealed an equity gap behind the scenes, and showed that LGBTQ+ and characters with disabilities are ‘rare’

Read the story.


More stories we’re reading:

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow! You can reach me in the meantime at LJohnson@insider.com and subscribe to this daily email here.

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Why I’m suing McDonald’s for discrimination along with 76 other Black former franchisees

mcdonald's
  • Last year, whistleblowers went public with allegations that McDonald’s “pushed out” Black franchisees and discriminated against its own Black executives.
  • This led me and 76 other Black franchisees to file a lawsuit claiming the company defaulted to put Black owners in unstable urban areas. 
  • Through our allegations, we aim to show how McDonald’s has treated its Black owners as second-class citizens. 
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I played six seasons in the NFL and never took a hit as hard as the ones McDonald’s put on me during my 24 years as an operator of several franchises in Atlanta.  

Becoming a McDonald’s franchisee in 1992 was a dream come true. Unfortunately, I entered a system that essentially quarantined Black operators into less-stable, less-profitable areas while White franchisees were given safe, lucrative locations where they could print money.

Early last year, internal corporate whistleblowers went public with allegations showing that McDonald’s “pushed out” Black franchisees and discriminated against its own Black executives. This disclosure was a moment of clarity for me and dozens of other former operators. We believe we faced discrimination that was not random, but systemic and occurring at the same time McDonald’s was publicly portraying itself as a friend of the Black entrepreneur and profiting greatly from millions of Black customers

This whistleblower lawsuit was the reason I and 76 other former franchisees filed a federal lawsuit last year. Our suit claims that the company’s default position was to put Black owners into unstable urban centers where White operators would rarely if ever be asked to buy a store. If he or she had a choice, what operator – White or Black – would seek out a store in areas where drug deals, theft, gang violence and, sometimes, murder are regularly on the menu?

I know this firsthand. McDonald’s “offered” me four stores with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude. Three of the four stores were in what I charitably call economically distressed, high-crime areas. All needed major rebuilds or renovations.  

While our lawsuit is complex, it clearly sets out its claim that Black operators – because of terrible locations – were forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out of our own savings for security to protect employees, customers and property. It asserts that we were given misleading data to sway location decisions and when we finally took over a store, many – like mine – were in disrepair and in need of drastic modernization. And – adding insult to injury – that we were on the hook for the renovation costs. Perhaps its most troubling allegation is that Black franchisees were regularly given poor internal reviews that later could be used as justification for terminating franchise contracts.

I was one of those under the microscope. Inspectors would regularly arrive unannounced late on Friday nights with what seemed like a goal of documenting the smallest infraction. In a burst of candor, one of the officials suggested I, as a mere three-store operator, should just sell my stores and get off the stage. 

This kind of treatment is symptomatic of the decline of the Black operator. In 1998, there was an all-time high of 377 Black franchisees; today only 186 remain. At the same time, the number of McDonald’s stores have gone from just over 15,000 to 36,000.

Our lawsuit claims the average annual sales for the Black-owned stores was about $2 million. This sounds like a big number, but it is $700,000 below the company’s national average per store of $2.7 million from 2011 to 2016 and $2.9 million last year. 

McDonald’s has always had a tense relationship with Black Americans. It took a boycott in the late 1960s for the first Black franchise to open its doors. In the 1980s, American Civil Rights leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson were warning McDonald’s that Black franchisees were being subjected to a double standard. In the 1990s, a top McDonald’s executive is quoted in the lawsuit’s complaint as saying the “company has placed many Black Franchisees in restaurants that have not allowed them to achieve the same level of economic success as their peers.”

McDonald’s is always coming up with new marketing ideas to curry favor with its Black customer base, but they may do little more than make those in the C-Suite feel a little better about themselves. 

Undoubtedly, McDonald’s is one of the world’s great brands and it is shameful that it may take a federal lawsuit to make the company face the accusations that it has been treating its Black owners as second-class citizens. 

[Editor’s note: McDonald’s has denied the claims made in the author’s lawsuit, calling the accusations “a conglomeration of incendiary and baseless allegations – with skewed ‘facts’ and cherry-picked information- that unsuccessfully seeks to assert a claim of intentional discrimination.” The company has also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.]

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I compared McDonald’s new crispy chicken sandwich to Chick-fil-A’s, and I thought they were almost identical

chick fil a mcdonalds thumb
McDonald’s has come out with an undeniably good chicken sandwich that’s similar to Chick-fil-A’s.

The chicken sandwich wars are in full swing, and McDonald’s is coming out with its own heavy hitters.

On February 24, McDonald’s launched its newest lineup of chicken sandwiches: the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, the Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

Immediately, fans and industry experts began to notice that the new offerings seemed very similar to Chick-fil-A’s and Popeyes’ iconic chicken sandwiches. Insider’s Kate Taylor previously reported on a leaked menu that revealed McDonald’s plans to release a new chicken sandwich, saying that the chain was planning to “take a page out of Chick-fil-A’s playbook.”

Former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz told Insider “it’s very apparent” that McDonald’s is following Chick-fil-A’s lead with its sandwich. “It comes in a foil bag just like Chick-fil-A, from what I understand it has a very similar flavor profile,” he said.

The description for the McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich describes it as a “southern style fried chicken sandwich” with crinkle-cut pickles and a toasted, buttered potato roll. Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich also comes on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips. 

However, I wasn’t going to assume that the sandwiches were identical – I had to try them for myself.

Here’s what I thought of each chicken sandwich, from how similar they were to which one might even win the chicken sandwich wars.

I tried the new McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A’s original chicken sandwich.

mcdonalds chick fil a chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

Both sandwiches came in a foil and paper bag. They also both stayed warm, despite half an hour passing between the time I picked them up and when I finally got them home. 

The sandwiches were similar in size, though Chick-fil-A’s bun and chicken fillet looked ever-so-slightly bigger.

mcdonalds chick fil a chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

I noticed that each sandwich had a very different bun. McDonald’s bun was harder and slightly denser, while Chick-fil-A’s was softer and slightly bigger than the fillet inside.

I’ve had the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich countless times, but I tried to go into this taste test with a fresh perspective.

chick fil a chicken sandwich
Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

The chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A cost me $6.85, making it slightly more expensive than the McDonald’s sandwich. 

Chick-fil-A has been consistently voted as one of America’s most beloved fast-food chains, and customer loyalty is high. 

“Chick-fil-A has very strong brand loyalists,” former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz told Insider. “I’ve sat in panels when I was doing chicken work. They will try the food, but when you tell them it’s not from Chick-fil-A they’ll say, ‘Well, I think it’s great but I’m not going to buy it because I am a Chick-fil-A consumer.” However, there are some people who might go to Chick-fil-A strictly for the flavor, and if McDonald’s can match that, they may be swayed.”

Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich, which comes served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips, is a favorite among customers.

chick fil a chicken sandwich
Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

According to a report by Edison Trends, Chick-fil-A received more online chicken sandwich delivery orders than any other brand in most of 2020, cornering around 45% of the total online order market share.

The bun was light and fluffy and the chicken breast was the perfect thickness.

popeyes chicken sandwich
Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

Chick-fil-A’s chicken breast was flakier as opposed to juicy. Looking at both of the sandwiches, the fillet itself also looked slightly bigger. The breading was thinner and clung to the chicken breast well, which gave it a great texture. 

However, I was slightly disappointed by Chick-fil-A’s pickles — they didn’t have the strong briny flavor or crunchiness I usually look for.

Next up was the newcomer: the McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.

The McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich cost $5.99 at my local chain in Brooklyn, New York.

The chicken fillet was thick – right off the bat, it looked really similar to sandwiches I’ve had from other chains.

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.

I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s McChicken sandwiches for years, but I could already tell that I was going to like this sandwich a lot more.

The sandwich came with a few whole pickle chips on top of the chicken fillet.

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.

The bun held the contents of the sandwich together perfectly, and in terms of size, I thought McDonald’s did a great job at nailing the bun-to-chicken ratio. 

Biting in, I was immediately impressed.

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.

The breading of the sandwich had a slight sweetness to it. However, it was perfectly balanced out by the tart, crunchy pickles, which had a strong briny flavor. The chicken was thick, juicy, and flavorful.

The only aspect of the sandwich I wasn’t totally in love with was the bun — though it was a good size, I thought it was slightly too thick. I’m of the opinion that a sandwich bun’s sole purpose is to hold everything together, without overpowering the other ingredients. I think this thicker potato bun slightly missed the mark on that.

It was really hard to say which one I liked more. However, I have to give props where props are due – McDonald’s has come out with an undeniably good chicken sandwich.

mcdonalds chick fil a chicken sandwich
McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

So, how similar were the two sandwiches? Pretty similar, in my opinion. If I was to do a blind taste test, I might not even know which was which, unless one was slathered in Chick-fil-A sauce. However, this is not to say that McDonald’s is in any way actively trying to copy or imitate Chick-fil-A’s most iconic offering.

The fact is that there is a trend in what consumers across the board are looking for in a chicken sandwich, whether they’re ordering from Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Popeyes, or any other chain.

Judging by the success of the chicken-war competitors, consumers want a Southern-inspired flavor with juicy, flavorful chicken and tart and crunchy pickles. McDonald’s definitely delivered on all counts.

As far as this food reporter is concerned, the new McDonald’s chicken sandwich stacks up well against fan favorites — and might even be a new go-to menu item.

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McDonald’s has reportedly been collecting ‘strategic intelligence’ on unionizing workers as they fight for a $15 minimum wage

mcdonald's strike workers
McDonald’s workers have been organizing protests calling for higher pay.

McDonald’s has reportedly been collecting information on workers campaigning for a $15 federal minimum wage, including using a team of intelligence analysts to track employees’ social media.

The company has been gathering information for years, using intelligence analysts at its Chicago and London offices to track workers linked to activist groups that advocate higher wages, better working conditions, and unionization, Vice’s Motherboard reported.

This includes monitoring the Fight for $15 campaign and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to find out which McDonald’s workers are active in the movement, Motherboard reported, citing documents it had viewed as well as two McDonald’s workers with direct knowledge of the surveillance.

This is despite McDonald’s announcing in 2019 it would no longer lobby against minimum wage regulation.

“This story is laden with false information, pulling together disparate pieces of information to build a sensationalist narrative that is inaccurate and misleading,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told Insider.

The company denied using fake social media accounts to gather information, and said its intelligence team is focused on threats to safety, such as natural disasters and civil unrest. The company uses publicly available information, the spokesperson added.

Fight for $15, which is financed by the SEIU, has been staging walkouts since 2012 to advocate for an increase in the minimum wage. The group has targeted McDonald’s in particular, whose workers have been organizing protests calling for higher pay.

Documents viewed by Motherboard outline the aims of McDonald’s intelligence services, including collecting “political intelligence on difficult political landscapes in complex markets that could cause significant business disruption,” and finding out “how and where will FF$15 attack the brand.”

One of the reports seen by Motherboard addressed “Ongoing FF$15 Activity Against McDonald’s During the COVID-19 Crisis.” It included information like the number of in-person and “virtual” protests the group had held and the amount of advance warning staff gave employers of their strike action.

And since at least last year, the fast-food giant has been collecting online data to monitor social media accounts, the sources told Motherboard. This includes reconstructing the friends lists of those involved in the labor movement, and using fake Facebook profiles, the sources said.

McDonald’s wanted to find out “where the key players are, and who they know,” a former corporate employee at the company told Motherboard. 

A McDonald’s spokesperson denied those allegations, telling Insider the company “has never used fake social media accounts to actively gather information, including labor activity.”

The intelligence team is “solely focused on identifying threats to safety, including natural disasters and civil unrest, that could pose harm to employees and franchisees,” the spokesperson said.

The company uses “publicly available information, in full compliance with the law and with our own ethical standards,” they added.

McDonald’s worker Gloria Machuca, who earns $9.50 an hour, told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan that the minimum wage increase would change her life. Until recently she worked 80-hour weeks across two different McDonald’s branches to support her six children.

“It is not fair that we work so much and that we have to suffer this much,” she said.

In response to Motherboard’s report, Machuca told the publication that workers are “not afraid” and that news of the information gathering won’t stop them.

“These desperate efforts by McDonald’s only show the power of the movement that we’ve built over the past eight years,” she added.

Motherboard’s report comes as President Joe Biden pushes for a $15 federal minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage, currently $7.25, has not been raised in more than a decade, but Biden’s attempts face opposition from both Republicans and Democrats.

Companies are increasingly taking the matter into their own hands. Among those that have raised, or announced plans to raise, their hourly minimum wage to $15 or higher are WayfairStarbucksTargetAmazon, and Costco.

A national minimum wage of $15 would mean around one in five Americans earns more, the Economic Policy Institute found. It could also help reduce income equality, its research found, with women, minorities, and frontline workers benefiting the most.

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Chick-fil-A is still the chicken sandwich king among people ordering delivery

Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich
  • Chick-fil-A is the most popular delivery choice among chicken sandwich sellers.
  • The chain had a 45% market share in December, with Popeyes in a distant second.
  • The crowded chicken sandwich world continues to grow as more brands introduce menu items.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In the ongoing chicken sandwich wars, Chick-fil-A is easily the delivery winner with 45% of the market share.

Fast food brands have been competing in the red-hot chicken sandwich segment since August 2019, when Popeyes introduced a fried chicken sandwich. Online spats and snarky tweets quickly created a rivalry between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A in the months since. 

But despite the ongoing competition between the two top chicken sandwich chains, Chick-fil-A has been the nearly undisputed winner in online orders for nearly two years. The chain’s streak was only broken briefly in January 2020, when Popeyes overtook it in market share, according to data from Edison Trends.

In December 2020, the most recent month Edison has data for, Chick-fil-A was the clear winner with 45% of online order market share. Popeyes was a distant second with 17%, only barely beating McDonald’s 16%.

chicken sandwich wars feb 2021 chart 1

The top four restaurants, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, have all maintained their rankings since February 2020, but the introduction of several new chicken sandwich menu items has the potential to shake up the market in 2021.

The chicken sandwich fast food space is already crowded and growing, but there seems to be an appetite among consumers. Online spending on chicken sandwiches grew 420% between January 2019 and December 2020, according to Edison Trends.

Insider has reported that several chains gearing up to introduce competitors to Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, both of which sell crispy chicken sandwiches with pickles. In January, KFC introduced a crispy chicken sandwich at nine locations, available across the country by the end of February, and Jimmy John’s dropped its own version of the chicken sandwich in a Super Bowl ad. Burger King announced a new chicken sandwich coming later this year, and McDonald’s is bringing its own entry this month. Shake Shack is launching a limited-edition chicken sandwich collab in Houston, and even Taco Bell announced a chicken sandwich taco coming later this year.

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McDonald’s iconic Shamrock Shake and Oreo Shamrock McFlurry are back on the menu

Shamrock Shake vs BK 3
Shamrock Shakes are back at McDonald’s.

  • Mint-flavored Shamrock Shakes are back on the menu at McDonald’s.
  • The chain brings the shakes out each year for a limited time around St. Patrick’s Day.
  • McDonald’s continues to attract customers despite the pandemic.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Shamrock Shake is finally back on McDonald’s menus, beginning on February 15.

The iconic green shake is made with vanilla soft serve, whipped topping, and a minty “unmistakable Shamrock Shake flavor,” according to McDonald’s. It is usually introduced around late February in the US, Canada, and Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

This year, McDonald’s is also bringing back the Oreo Shamrock McFlurry, which was first introduced last year for the Shamrock Shake’s 50th anniversary. It features Oreo pieces blended into the soft serve of a regular Shamrock Shake. 

“We know this winter may feel longer than others so we’re thrilled to give customers something to look forward to by bringing both fan-favorites back to the menu this month” McDonald’s Senior Director of Culinary Chad Schafer said in a statement.

McDonald’s is thriving while the restaurant industry as a whole is suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While analysts predict as many as 20% of independent restaurants may close across the country, McDonald’s franchisees are happier than ever.  The chain has kept revenues up through a combination of drive-thru improvements, tech investments, and celebrity meal partnerships.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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