Lee’s famous chicken recipe refuses to let go of record-breaking momentum
Lee’s quest to match the 2020 boom is put to the test by a chicken category that’s filled to the brim, especially with the entry of many virtual brands from major players on the full-service side like Chili’s and Applebee’s. Cooper finds the idea of a virtual concept interesting, but insists that Lee’s will continue to focus on what he does best instead of “trying to make lasagna in an oven and fried chicken in the oven.” another “.
Cooper explains that convenience and cost are important when consumers make decisions, but ultimately the deciding factor is taste, which he says excels with his fresh, never-frozen chicken. He considers the hand-breaded, honey-dipped and pressure-cooked approach to be a “complicated and delicate dance” in the back of the house.
“To make our chicken taste like it is, it’s very, very unique to us,” Cooper said. “I think that will be the longer term challenge: can they really taste good? And are they willing to do that complicated and delicate dance in the back of the house to get this product really good.
“We see [virtual brands] as a competition, but we also know that the customer decides in the end, ”he adds. “I think there are going to be a lot of tries. And I think if you’re really looking for availability and someone who can deliver it quickly, if a Lee’s isn’t in your market, then there are other options out there. But I love our fresh, never-frozen, hand-breaded, honey-dipped, pressure-cooked approach that I think sets us apart.
The growing category of chicken has contributed to a drop in supply, causing prices to soar.
Using data from market research firm Urner Barry, the wall street journal reported in early May that boneless chicken breast was trading at $ 2.04 a pound, down from around $ 1 a pound last year. The average price is around $ 1.32 a pound.
Cooper says Lee’s doesn’t want to keep raising prices for inflation, so he tried to take a closer look and mitigate where he could. But at the end of the day the prices fluctuate and he’s just trying to stay ahead. He sees the supply chain as many cogs of different sizes, where even the smallest turn can move everything else. He used this example: if it takes one more day to get Indian pepper, it takes another day to incorporate the spice into a recipe, and so on, until it starts to grow. become a noticeable problem at the store level.
Lee’s has tried to keep its operators up to date on what the next three to five months will look like, and they are relying on all of their suppliers, from chicken to flour, to deliver the right information. According to Cooper, the brand prefers to rate products in three basic ways in that order: availability, consistency, then price.
“So we have to make sure we have the right kind of chicken or fillets or green beans, mashed potatoes, breading, and then we have to make sure it’s consistent so it’s the same size, and part of that is contractual and we negotiate with these vendors, but part of that is just making sure that we communicate with our operators, ”Cooper explains.“ And then finally, what’s really important is that. is the price of these things. But I think we’ve agreed as a brand that we have to have the product available. It should be of consistent size and quality. And the price is also one of the three most important things.