McDonald’s Joins the Fierce Fight for Chicken Sandwich Supremacy

After the fillet, the focus turned to the bun. Fifteen to 20 varieties of buns and rolls were considered. More sandwiches were made and taste-tested. “It was tons of buns,” Mr. Link said.

Ultimately, McDonald’s decided, for the first time, to use a potato roll for one of its sandwiches. The roll is toasted with a creamy butter, dispensed through new warmers that are being installed in the restaurants.

“It’s sweet and buttery, a really nice complement to the savory of the chicken,” said Linda VanGosen, the head of U.S. menu strategy at McDonald’s.

Last, but not least, came the two pickles. “I learned a lot about pickles,” Mr. Link said with a laugh, explaining that the crinkle-cut pickle McDonald’s uses means more crunch and more pickle flavor on the sandwich.

Instead of the cardboard boxes that McDonald’s uses for most of its sandwiches, the original Crispy Chicken sandwich and the spicy version will be served in a foil bag.

By late 2019, the new chicken sandwich was being tested in restaurants in Houston and Knoxville, Tenn. After successful test runs, plans were set to release the sandwiches last summer. But those plans were sidelined as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country and franchise owners were focused on keeping their doors open and employees safe.

“Our attention needed to be on serving our customers,” Ms. VanGosen said. “It was just not the right time to launch.”

Mr. Link said the sandwich would be worth the wait.

“I’m pretty passionate about chicken. Being from the South, I eat a lot of chicken,” he said. “I wanted a sandwich that, when I ate that sandwich, I wanted to take another bite.”