Chicken is the “protein of the moment” as evidenced by its menu growth from 2009-2012, according to a report in from Nancy Kruse, president and restaurant analyst of The Kruse Company. In that time frame, poultry listings increased 12 percent. More specifically, chicken fingers listings jumped 10 percent; chicken wings were up 19 percent; and chicken toppings on pizza grew 26 percent. Kruse also said there is currently an influx of fine dining chefs jumping into the chicken space, with concepts such as Pecking Order (Chicago), Yardbird (Miami) and Bantam + Biddy (Atlanta).

The protein’s popularity crosses prep methods too, from fried chicken, to spicy, to cold fried chicken. Kruse predicts significant growth in the “better-chicken” segment in the near future. “The better-burger segment (Five Guys, Smashburger, etc.) is getting crowded. But with all of these chefs itching to get into fast casual, and more frequent locally grown, organic ingredients, watch for the emergence of (better chicken),” Kruse said.

Current examples include Zaxby’s and Chix. KFC’s new spinoff–KFC eleven–is also leveraging this trend.