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Elevated Fried Chicken

As Americans, we truly celebrate fried chicken. It's an iconic American dish, such as apple pie and lemonade. We love it, crave it, have many national restaurant chains dedicated to it, and even sing about it (Zach Brown Band's "Chicken Fried"). I consider fried chicken to be in my top 10 (oysters being #1 on my list, in case you were curious, but I digress).

On a trip to New Orleans for the ACF National Convention, the team and I ate at an establishment well known for fried chicken, Willie Mae's Scotch House. Their rendition was incredible - simple, honest fried chicken with the thinnest, most delicate coating you can imagine. It was like eating rice paper-crusted chicken. It also happened to be the juiciest bird I've ever enjoyed. Good eats!

Many years ago, an old colleague born and raised in the deep South would bring a pile of her classic Southern buttermilk fried chicken to work twice a year for all to share. These two occasions were truly food nirvana for many of us. Albeit simply prepared, marinated in buttermilk, dredged in seasoned flour and fried to perfection in a cast iron skillet filled with lard, this chicken stands far apart from any others I have ever had.

 Patriotic as this all sounds, fried chicken, as with any food, has evolved and even become global. In the last few years, I have seen many delicious adaptations of our focus. Not to sound like Bubba Gump, but I have seen Buffalo Fried, Ramen-Crusted, Sweet Tea Glazed, Rosemary Infused, Korean, Japanese, Nashville Hot, Coconut Fried, Sambal BBQ Fried, Togarashi Fried, Fried Chicken Tacos… You get the idea.

I've seen literally hundreds of variations of fried chicken and waffles out there, the most unique being a Chicken & Waffle Cupcake with Maple Cream Cheese frosting. YUM! Of all I have eaten lately, my favorite was at a little dive near the Brooklyn Bridge called "Pies & Thighs." Nothing overly unique, just good, honest down-and-dirty Southern, antibiotic/hormone-free, simply brined, floured fried chicken atop an incredible house-made waffle drizzled with hot sauce and honey butter.

Then there's the melding of trends like "Carnival Cuisine." Fried chicken mashups resulted in some delicious offerings, which included Fried Chicken Corn Dogs, Crispy Chicken Fries and Popcorn Crusted Fried Chicken.

The bottom line, you can uniquely and creatively shape the future of fried chicken by adjusting the marinade, the coating, the presentation, or the topical accents, making it a destination item of your own. That said, always count on the chefs and products at Custom Culinary® to aid in your quest. From our full line of Ready-to-Use Sauces, like our Gold Label Harissa to our customized offerings, such as Lemon Tahini Brine, we are here to help.

I hope to taste your elevated fried chicken offerings sometime soon. Drop me a line when you're ready. Just remember, like Zach Brown says, "You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday Night."

Keep the creative juices flowing, and I'll see you in the kitchen soon!

Chef's Tip

Add a shot of True Foundations Chicken Liquid Stock Concentrate or Master's Touch® Ancho Flavor Concentrate in your buttermilk marinade for a flavor boost!

plate of fried chicken and collard greens

LTO SUPERSTARs: Three takes on a fried chicken sandwich

According to Mintel, the fried chicken sandwich wars made a comeback in 2022, with several restaurants featuring a regular and spicy chicken sandwich on the menu. Operators show no signs of backing down from the competition, and they are innovating with new chicken items other than sandwiches to satisfy patrons who are excited about spicier and more unique appetizers and breakfast items.

Signature Fried Chicken Sandwich

"Signature" Fried Chicken Sandwich

71 composite scorePut a signature spin on the ever-popular fried chicken sandwich by serving on a toasted brioche bun with pickles and a generous serving of Zesty Serrano Secret Sauce, featuring Custom Culinary® Tomatillo Serrano Sauce and cream cheese.



  • ​TANGY: In this adoption-phase chicken sandwich macrotrend, tangy crunchy toppings add much needed contrast to trendy fried chicken sandwiches. Pickled elements and slaws are common ways to cut the richness.

  • Exceptionally strong purchase interest; outperforms most other sandwiches

  • Ability to drive visitation; top performer for Draw among those who like this idea​

Chicken Fried Chicken Breakfast Sandwich

Chicken Fried Chicken Breakfast Sandwich

89 composite scoreGravy-fried buttermilk chicken, crisp thick cut bacon and a sunny-side-up egg, piled high on a warm biscuit, smothered with chicken gravy. Featuring Custom Culinary® PanRoast® Low Sodium Gluten Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix as a savory breading and a gravy topping.



  • BREAKFAST: The Southern chicken biscuit is now available at many quick service chains and the option of breaded chicken is a midscale standby at many locations in this proliferation-phase chicken sandwich macrotrend.

  • This item is a Superstar - it's extremely well-liked and differentiated enough to stand out from the rest

  • Exceptionally strong purchase interest; outperforms most other sandwiches

Thai Fried Hen of the Woods Mushroom Sandwich

Thai Fried "Chicken" Sandwich

94 composite scoreTempura-fried maitake mushrooms (also known as hen-of-the-woods) deliver a satisfying, meaty flavor sure to impress even the most devoted fried chicken fans! This unique "chicken" sandwich is topped with som tum (green papaya salad), fried shallots, and Chili Dressing Secret Sauce made with Custom Culinary® Bibimbap Sauce and lemongrass.


  • ASIAN-INFLUENCED: In this inception-phase chicken sandwich macrotrend, Asian flavors often include spicy and sweet flavor profiles which is another growing theme in chicken sandwiches itself.  With flavors like Korean BBQ branching out all over the menu, and crispy Japanese katsu chicken cutlets the innovation opportunities are endless.

  • This item is a Superstar - it's extremely well-liked and differentiated enough to stand out from the rest

  • Perceived as exceptionally unique; a five star rating for uniqueness


This Datassential tool tracks top chain restaurants' LTOs and new menu items from month to month and showcases consumer ratings on them based on a variety of metrics. Since 2014, SCORES has grown to include over 175k ratings across 30,000 menu items.I

Scores Legend
How new and different is this item?Uniqueness helps operators stand out from the competition, which makes this a particularly noteworthy score.
How likely would you be to order/buy it?
Gauges how interested consumers are in a specific item in general when it's not tied to a particular brand.
Is this an item you could see yourself having all the time? It shows operators how often consumers would seek out this specific item if it were available.

What's growing fastest in Fried chicken?

Delectable seasonings, juicy meat and an unforgettable, satisfying crunch—is it any surprise that fried chicken is one of the world’s most beloved and popular foods? While most patrons are familiar with Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken, there’s a world of opportunity for introducing new marinades, batters, breading, glazes and dipping sauces to your menu offerings. From the appetizer appeal of Indian Chicken 65 (deep-fried bites dressed in spicy chiles, onion and lemon) to sandwich-ready Japanese katsu (panko-breaded cutlets) to Nashville hot chicken biscuit sandwiches, fried chicken can be served across menuparts and dayparts.

Distinctive, unique flavors are up across the board, but consider a balance between sweetness and heat. That said, more consumers also say they prefer honey on chicken than they did in the past. Fried chicken accompaniments such as honey butter, Korean gochujang and fruit chutney will help to satisfy your customers’ desire for a range of unique flavors.


Ranked in order of menu penetration for chicken dishes.

















Jalapeno Pepper




Growth Potential

Ranked in order of 4-year menu growth for chicken sandwiches.



Nashville Hot




Gluten Free


Hot Honey


Yogurt Sauce


Roasted Corn


Chicken and Waffles


Honey Chicken


Buttermilk Biscuit


Enhancing Fried Chicken Dishes with Memorable Experiences

According to Mintel, consumers seek value through exceptional dining experiences, not just lower prices or larger portions. Restaurants can capitalize on this trend by creating visually appealing and engaging presentations, particularly for popular dishes like fried chicken.

A prime example is the Carved Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Miss River in New Orleans, which is presented whole and carved tableside with assorted dipping sauces. By offering unique and interactive experiences, restaurants can provide customers with a memorable dining experience that encourages a willingness to explore new flavors.

There’ no dening the conumer appeal of fried chicken—epeciall when ou mix thing up with authentic, on-trend flavor. Give thee Cutom Culinar product a tr!

Custom Culinary Flavor IQ
FlavorIQ® enables our customers' growth and success by approaching the creation of customized solutions with a bold mix of expertise, aspiration and curiosity. We develop unique products, menu concepts and "gold standard" flavor delivery systems, meeting the requirements of our customers today and anticipating their emerging needs, too. The opportunities we identify for operators and food manufacturers on a global scale are rooted in a deep understanding of the culinary arts, sensory science, consumer insights and food science. Our ultimate goal? Innovation without limits.

Datassential, The World of Chicken Sandwiches, March 2023
Datassential, The World of Chicken, March 2023
Datassential SCORES, "Signature Chicken Sandwich" report for Custom Culinary®, March 2022
Datassential SCORES, "Chicken Fried Chicken Breakfast Sandwich" report for Custom Culinary®, December 2021
Datassential SCORES, "Thai Fried 'Chicken' Sandwich" report for Custom Culinary®, March 2022
Datassential MenuTrends, accessed 5/3/23. US Chain and Independent restaurants % that offer...
Datassential, FoodBytes: SCORES Preview, August 2021
Mintel, Flavor Innovation on the Menu - US - 2023