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Chick-fil-A is introducing a new lineup of grilled chicken entrees April 14, including a grilled chicken sandwich, grilled chicken club sandwich and grilled nuggets.
According to the Atlanta-based chain, the new menu is part of an ongoing effort to provide more options for its "nutrition-minded" customers. The chain has invested $50 million to develop the new recipes — anchored by a marinade of sea salt, lemon, garlic and savory herbs — and proprietary grill technology. The company worked with Garland Grills to create the grill, which sears chicken on cast-iron, similar to a backyard grill but faster, the company said.
Chick-fil-A has been testing the new offerings for seven years.
"We started with a mission to create a best-in-class grilled sandwich, and after testing 1,200-plus recipes, we landed on a taste so remarkable that we decided to extend the flavor into a full grilled line," said David Farmer, Chick-fil-A's vice president of product strategy and development. "Our previous grilled entrees were good, but not remarkable. We wanted a grilled chicken recipe that is just as 'craveable' as our original Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich."
The new menu includes:
Chick-fil-A's new grilled chicken is also available as part of the brand's grilled market salad, grilled chicken Cool Wrap and chicken salad sandwich.
With a brighter focus on nutrition, Chick-fil-A said the new items are "transformative." Some analysts have opined that the grilled lineup is about more than just healthy eating trends, however. A USA Today story offered such a perspective, as well as a glimpse inside the company's test kitchen and an interview with CEO Dan Cathy.
The story said the chicken chain is "recalibrating its moral and culinary compass. It wants to go from old school to almost cool ... Above all, it wants to be a serious player on fast food's biggest stage."
The chain's brand image improvements, in addition to the new grilled offerings, also include its recently announced plans to sell only antibiotic-free chicken and to remove high fructose corn syrup.
Designers are even working to remove plastic from all restaurants, including serving trays, the story said.
Also on the agenda? Working to improve its divisive image after Cathy's controversial gay marriage comments a couple of years ago. This effort is necessary if the brand wants to succeed in new, non-core, metropolitan markets such as the Northeast.
"I'm going to leave it to politicians and others to discuss social issues," Cathy told USA Today.
Chick-fil-A plans 108 new units in 2014, most of them in urban areas, and many of them in New York City, the story said. The brand first debuted its in-line model in Chicago in 2011. It features elements such as natural wood and a variety of seating options.
Driving all of these initiatives are the millennial urbanites: "Urbanization," Cathy said in the story, "is where the future is heading."
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