Why Some Fans Weren't Impressed With Panera's Chicken Sandwiches

It's not exactly breaking news that businesses follow trends and fads. If something becomes trendy, companies will milk it for money while it's hot. A very good example of this would be the fast food industry jumping into a very intense competition surrounding the fad of fried chicken sandwiches. Dubbed the "Chicken Sandwich Wars," per Restaurant Business Online, the extreme focus on producing the best chicken sandwich came about in 2019, partly sparked by a Twitter exchange between Chick-fil-A and Popeyes.

Things soon escalated to the point of fried poultry pandemonium. It seemed like everywhere you went, every fast-food joint and its mother were bringing down the house boasting about how they had the juiciest, crispiest, most flavorful chicken sandwich. Good Morning America notes that everyone from McDonald's to Burger King to Wendy's to KFC found themselves embroiled in a constant, near unending attempt to one-up each other from ceaseless and aggressive marketing to "trolling" each other on Twitter. For what it's worth, many of these fast-food restaurants did find some varying degrees of success with their chicken sandwiches — one of the exceptions was Panera Bread.

Known for its promise of "clean" food, Panera might have seemed like a shoo-in for success when it rolled out chicken sandwiches. But somehow, Panera's offering wasn't received warmly by some vocal Internet denizens. Why?

Panera's chicken sandwich was too elaborate and too expensive

When you try to market something based on a fad, two useful questions to ask are: Does what you're selling make sense, and will people really pay for it just because it's part of the fad? By keeping these two questions in mind, perhaps we can understand why Panera's chicken sandwich didn't receive fanfare from a contingent of their customer base.

As The Takeout explains, Panera's chicken sandwich offered a different take on the average fast food version, substituting pickles and mayo with garlic aioli and parmesan crisps. It also offered a spicy version. But according to the site, none of the ingredients actually went well together — according to online commentary, at least. The review made it sound like a bunch of random gourmet odds and ends were stacked together to give the illusion of a connoisseur's chicken sandwich.

Users on the subreddit r/Panera also noted the high price of the sandwiches, especially when compared to cheaper ones served at Popeyes. Even if the sandwich was supposedly good as some claim, it still didn't justify a price tag of $11, according to critics. The OP complained that "the new sandwiches are overpriced for being as sub-par and small as they are." Perhaps another reason for Panera's failure was that the company had entered the trend too late, missing out on a lot of the hype. Would an earlier start have pushed people to fork out the money for the sandwich? Hey, at least Panera still has bread bowls to fall back on.