A Leaked Email Reveals McDonald's Is Still Trying to Create a "Viral" Chicken Sandwich

Tim Nelson

Years from now, fast food historians will still be looking back on the Great Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019. It was a watershed moment that forced a widespread reappraisal of Popeyes, leaving competitors with a greater fast food market share scrambling to keep up with the new must-have menu item.

But as we turn the page to 2020, there’s one group of people that’s still waiting to get their hands on a chicken sandwich in the hopes of keeping up with other poultry purveyors: McDonald’s franchisees.

In a leaked email from independent franchisee group McDonald’s National Owners Association (NOA) sent to rank and file members and seen by Business Insider, the group reiterated the “need to stay focused on coming up with a Chicken Sandwich our customers are going to crave. A chicken sandwich that gives our customers another reason to visit McDonald’s.”

The email reiterates the NOA’s existing position, with CNBC reporting in July that the organization believes “that developing a chicken sandwich that could compete with the likes of Chick-fil-A” is of the utmost importance. NOA also expressed that it should be tested in the South and pushed nationwide as soon as possible if successful.

WATCH: How to Make the Ultimate Fried Chicken Sandwich

While McDonald’s has undertaken that recommended test in the six months since, there’s no nationwide, giant-slaying chicken sandwich just yet. Both a new Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich have been made available in Houston, Texas, and Knoxville, Tennessee, with a company representative telling Business Insider that customers “have had a positive response” so far. However, McDonald’s further stated that “the test will continue for a few more weeks and the feedback from customers will inform our decisions moving forward.”

While the NOA probably wants to get its hands on those sandwiches as soon as possible, the leaked email suggests the organization is already worried about how the public would perceive a McDonald’s chicken sandwich.

“There will be talk about it containing MSG. Needless to say, all of our Chicken Sandwich competitors use MSG, and many foods naturally contain MSG… we don’t need to get distracted by media stories that can’t get their facts straight.” It’s a fair concern given that MSG may explain why we love Chick-fil-A so much and the backlash against it is largely a product of outdated anti-Asian sentiment.

So if you’re a McD’s head who’s hoping to get your hands on a chicken sandwich worthy of the current fast food moment, just know you’re not alone. You can bet that the franchisees who make money off of the food McDonald’s sells will be ready to offer the Crispy Chicken Sandwich the second they can.