Data on restaurant menus compiled by research Mintel for indicates that many new chicken items are being added to hamburger chains. Chicken sandwiches, wraps, tenders and more are all being introduced and capturing the promotional limelight and this trend is expected to continue.

Several years ago chicken sandwiches passed hamburgers in sheer numbers on restaurant menus, and that trend remains intact.  Mintel data found that the number of hamburgers on menus of quick service restaurants it tracks rose 7.5 percent from 280 in the first quarter of 2009 to 301 in the first quarter of 2011.  Sandwiches with chicken as an ingredient (chicken sub, chicken club, chicken panini) showed greater growth with a 9.5- percent increase from 357 to 391 over that three-year period.

Chicken is making the greatest inroads at fast-casual restaurants, such as Smashburger, which greatly expanded its chicken menu recently.  Fast casual restaurants added 42 chicken items in the first quarter of 2011, compared with just 24 during the same quarter a year ago.

When Red Robin Gourmet Burgers begins its summer menu promotion on May 31 it will not be spotlighting a new burger for the first time in several years but will promote instead a jalapeno-and-salsa topped 5 Alarm Chicken sandwich later this month.  In addition, the chain expanded its menu last month, which included a Grilled Chicken Alla Caprese Salad, but no new hamburgers.  McDonald’s Dinner Box that bundles family-sized Happy Meals will roll out an all-chicken version later this month that will include McChicken sandwiches, new Chicken n Cheese sandwiches, and new Chicken McWings.  McDonald’s has been testing the take-out Dinner Box in Australia for the last year.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s is simultaneously testing both Bistro Cheddar Cheeseburger and Bistro Cheddar Chicken sandwiches in various markets.  The chain will introduce systemwide both the Dave’s Hot ‘n Juicy Cheeseburgers and its premium chicken sandwiches later this year.  The Dublin, Ohio-based chain has been gradually remaking its menu since its 2008 acquisition and conversion into Atlanta-based Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. and is currently testing in the Columbus market such items as Bruschetta Chicken, topped with diced tomatoes, chopped basil, and a balsamic glaze, and Asiago Club Chicken with aged Asiago cheese and applewood-smoked bacon.