McDonald’s, the top earner in quick service, is ramping up its efforts to become a “credible chicken player,” with its latest project, entitled “Better Chicken.” The chain outlined the plan in a letter to franchisees, a group operating about 90 percent of McDonald’s U.S. locations, according to a report from QSR magazine.

The classic McChicken has been abandoned in recent years and replaced by the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken sandwiches, Snack Wraps, and most recently, the new and improved Classic Chicken Sandwich.  The restaurant’s Buttermilk Chicken Tenders were so popular the company needed to remove them from menus to recoup supply in November before bringing them back in January.

To McDonald’s, the numbers are clear: Americans are eating more and more chicken. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American ate nearly 92 pounds of chicken last year, almost as much as the combined total for beef (56.6 pounds) and pork (51 pounds). Because demand continues to exceed supply, the entire quick-service industry has been reportedly faced with rising poultry prices.

The goal is for McDonald’s to continue its recent hot streak by riding the chicken wave. McDonald’s had a strong fourth quarter in 2017, posting revenue of $5.34 billion in the fourth quarter, topping predictions of $5.22 billion.  Same-store sales in the United States increased 4.5 percent beating the forecasted 4.3 percent growth.

But franchisees are not being told to focus on chicken simply because it’s perceived to be healthier than beef, or because tenders, strips, breasts, and wings are selling like hotcakes. In the quick-service arena, as far as chicken is concerned, there is a lot of territory left to be claimed.

Part of McDonald’s chicken strategy is the desire to bump up against Chick-fil-A, the leading chicken concept on QSR’s 50 at number eight.  McDonald’s tops the list by a sizable amount. However, by average unit volume, Chick-fil-A is far and away the most lucrative chain. McDonald’s reported average sales per restaurant in 2016 was $2.5 million. Chick-fil-A was $4.4 million, while being closed on Sundays.

Chick-fil-A remains a standard-bearer across several categories thanks to its penchant for outstanding customer service, clean stores, and efficient operations. In a survey based on 10,000 customer responses,  Chick-fil-A earned an 83-percent score to top the entire industry.

Of course, nobody can quite compete with McDonald’s sheer volume and sales performance, which makes the cause of its appetite for chicken that much clearer. Since McDonald’s customer base is already established across the world, the challenge now is offering a product that will have chicken enthusiasts going to the Golden Arches as their first choice.

But that is not so easy. For years, McNuggets were derided as a lesser form of chicken. McDonald’s has taken steps in recent years to remedy that perception, including removing artificial preservatives from nuggets, and said it would stop serving chicken with antibiotics across its menu. Despite the health halo many perceive around chicken, McDonald’s still does not hit that note with some consumers. A large part of their strategy is changing that entirely.

If the success of Buttermilk Chicken Tenders is any indication of the brand’s fortunes in the arena of chicken, McDonald’s should be able to rise to the occasion, analysts said.