The Surprising Rise and Profitability of Chicken Tenders

When it comes to fast food, chicken has always been a staple of many menus across the country. However, while chicken nuggets and sandwiches have been mainstays, one dish has slowly become dominant in the industry — chicken tenders and fingers.

For a long time, chicken fingers were thought of as something for the kids’ menu, but thanks to innovations in their preparation, these items have become a big business for both restaurant chains and local establishments. The popularity of chicken fingers is a win-win for everyone, as they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare, and can be extra delicious when paired with the right sauce.

How Chicken Fingers Became a Profitable Trend

There is some debate regarding the origin of the humble chicken finger. Some claim that they were born in a restaurant called The Puritan Backroom in 1974, while others claim they were invented in the 1950s. Further muddying the waters is the fact that this dish can go by so many different names, including chicken tenders, fingers, strips, and more.

Regardless of when and where they were invented, it became obvious that the public enjoyed chicken fingers back in the 1980s. As fast food restaurants started to boom, fingers were seen as a better alternative to nuggets because they contained more chicken and less breading.

What became a watershed moment for this dish was the founding of Raising Canes in 1996. The restaurant opened with a novel concept — “What if we only sold chicken fingers?” — and turned it into a massive franchise with devoted fans everywhere.

By now, chicken fingers have a firm grip on the foodservice industry, and they show no signs of letting go.

The Golden Nuggets of Profitability in the Food Industry

Chicken has always been a profitable food source, thanks to its relatively low cost and high demand. However, chicken fingers (or tenders) can be one of the most profitable options on a restaurant’s menu. On average, a serving of chicken fingers could yield up to 65 percent profit, thanks to a massive 185 percent markup.

Part of the secret is most chicken tenders are made from breast meat, although “true” chicken fingers are made from the tenderloins on either side of the breast. For example, Raising Canes only uses the tenderloin and leaves the rest of the chicken for other restaurants.

Factors Driving Popularity

Just because something is inexpensive and easy to make doesn’t mean it will be a hit. So why are chicken fingers such a staple of modern fast food? There are a few reasons, including convenience, versatility, and limitless flavor options. When it comes to flavors, liven it up with spices and seasonings to the breading. But the main attraction is the sauce used for dipping. Chicken is such a versatile meat because it pairs well with practically anything, from barbecue sauce to a gourmet sweet chili aioli.

Another reason for success is that tenders can also be chopped up and added to other dishes, including tacos, salads, wraps, and sandwiches. So, restaurants can develop an entire menu from one basic ingredient.

The Secret Recipe for Chicken Finger Success

For a restaurant to really profit from chicken fingers, it needs to deliver a superior product consistently. Fortunately, commercial fryers from Pitco make frying chicken a breeze, reducing strains on labor and enhancing the quality of food.

The Solstice Supreme commercial deep fryer can also enhance a restaurant’s operations with smart features, such as automatic oil filtration, disposal, and top-off. This way, workers don’t have to set reminders, nor will they forget to change the oil and let it burn (causing an unpleasant aftertaste).

With automatic oil filtration systems, Pitco commercial fryers enable restaurants to move more fingers in less time. Plus, modular designs allow establishments to mix and match models based on their needs for maximum efficiency. Frying chicken tenders has never been easier or more profitable.

Ready to fry up some chicken fingers but not sure if your fryer is up to it? Take our quiz to find out if it’s time to repair or replace your commercial fryer.

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Topics: Foods & Trends, Chicken