NY Times: Which Came First, or Does It Even Matter?

Mcdonald's has recently introduced a new Southern-style chicken Sandwich and the Chick-fil-A chain is not too happy.

It shows in their ads.

N the fast-food business, imitation isn’t just a form of flattery — it’s a proven way to increase sales.

The Taco Bell value menu, for instance, gave rise to the Wendy’s Super Value Menu, the McDonald’s Dollar Menu and the Burger King Value Menu. The Angus beef burger from Back Yard Burgers begat similar burgers at McDonald’s, Burger King and Hardee’s.

In the latest appropriation of a popular product, McDonald’s has just introduced a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich — one that looked suspiciously like the signature sandwich of the Chick-fil-A chain.

“We knew this was coming,” said Don Perry, a Chick-fil-A spokesman.

McDonald’s is rolling out the sandwich in all 14,000 of its restaurants in the United States, in what the company says is one of its biggest product introductions this year. Television ads in five languages started running May 6, and on May 15 free Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches (and a breakfast version) were offered with the purchase of a drink in all McDonald’s restaurants.

Ads for the product are in print, on billboards, online and on the radio. A Web site, whatcamefirst.com, pits a chicken versus an egg in a dance-off, sort of like the “Subservient Chicken” site that Burger King put up in 2004 to promote its chicken sandwiches. McDonald’s says that its new site, put up in late April, is meant to appeal to young adults and has so far attracted 150,000 visitors.

But McDonald’s disavows any similarity to the Chick-fil-A sandwich.

“Absolutely not,” said Marta Fearon, the marketing director for McDonald’s in the United States, when asked if the company was going after the smaller chain’s customers. “It is all about McDonald’s chicken.”

The sandwich is a breaded chicken breast garnished with two pickles — exactly what Chick-fil-A offers. It was thought up by a group of McDonald’s franchisees in Atlanta, where Chick-fil-A is based. And it comes in breakfast biscuit or sandwich form, just as it does at Chick-fil-A.

According to Chick-fil-A, a promotion in the Atlanta area for McDonald’s has promoted the fact that the Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches are available on days ending in “y” — an interesting approach, given that Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays.

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