KFC's Nashville Hot Chicken sales are suddenly surging after it went viral on TikTok, causing a surprise shortage

Mary Meisenzahl
·3 min read
KFC Nashville hot chicken
Josh Reynolds/AP Images for KFC
  • KFC's 5-year-old Nashville Hot Chicken menu item is suddenly wildly popular online.

  • The chain confirmed some locations are out of the Nashville hot sauce required to make the item.

  • Analysts say social media can be a powerful tool for fast-food sales.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

KFC's Nashville Hot chicken is exploding in popularity on social media, and some locations are running out of the hot sauce required to make the item as a result.

"Due to the popularity and high demand of our Nashville Hot sauce, some of our restaurants may be experiencing temporary outages," a KFC spokesperson told Insider, confirming the shortage.

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The hashtag "nashvillehotchicken" has nearly 84 million views on TikTok, nearly all of which are about KFC's menu item. Users make videos of themselves trying the chicken tenders documenting the "crunch" of the first bite and usually explaining that they wanted to try because they saw other TikTokers do it. Most non-KFC videos under the hashtag are about how to recreate the dish at home, or alternative restaurants to get them because local KFCs are sold out.

Even famous YouTuber and online personality Trisha Paytas posted multiple videos of herself trying to find the Nashville Hot tenders and trying them.

Despite the newfound popularity, KFC has sold its Nashville Hot Chicken since 2016. The chain has called it one of the most successful launches of its history, and KFC head chef Bob Das told Insider at the time of the launch that it was his favorite new menu item in his 16-year career.

A KFC spokesperson told Insider that it isn't behind the hot chicken tenders trend on TikTok, though "we love to see people celebrating their favorite menu items and finding new ways to enjoy and create content with our world-famous fried chicken." The chain has recruited TikTok stars to promote its chicken sandwich online.

The current shortage is likely a case of suppliers not being able to predict the sudden spike in demand over the last few weeks, Mark Kalinowski of Kalinowski Equity Research told Insider. Yum Brands, KFC's parent company, doesn't break out sales of individual items, but same-store sales were up 11% on a two-year basis at the end of the first quarter of 2021, despite a tightening of the US chicken supply.

The five-year-old menu item's sudden popularity is a testament to the power of social media, Kalinowski told Insider.

Social media-driven shortages at fast-food chains are nothing new, though generally they impact newer offerings. In April, Starbucks locations around the country saw an oat milk shortage that many baristas blamed in part on the newly launched Ice Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso. The brown sugar syrup used in the drink was also in short supply.

At McDonald's, the Travis Scott meal was so popular, in large part thanks to social media, that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients last year.

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