Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Nothing can stop Chick-fil-A.

That's how it's seemed for quite some time.

The company has begun to expand. It's now the third-biggest fast food chain in the U.S. It's beloved by its customers. (Even if some of them don't entirely adore its socio-political orientations.) Its customer service is said to be America's favorite, and there's evidence why.

Recently, however, Popeyes has done its best to tweak Chick-fil-A and encroach a little more on its chicken kingdom. Popeyes has, moreover, shown it has just as enthusiastic a following as does Chick-fil-A.

The latter, though, is a brand that keeps things simple and eschews change. I can't help thinking, therefore, that Chick-fil-A is feeling a little of Popeyes spicy breath on the hairs of its neck. For it's testing significant menu changes. 

In Arizona and Charlotte, North Carolina, Chick-fil-A has removed stalwarts such as its Original Chick-n-Strips and its Grilled Cool Wrap from its menu. And, gasp, where's the breakfast sausage, the Sunflower Multigrain Bagel, the side salad and the decaf coffee? All gone. Some other items will now only be offered in one size. (Can American cope without choice?)

This is relative carnage, given Chick-fil-A's usual resistance to change. Putting mac and cheese as a permanent side last year was the equivalent of a revolution. The last menu change before that was 2016.

The idea that some old favorites might permanently disappear will surely be disturbing for some. Why, here's a local news presenter lamenting the potentially permanent departure of the Grilled Cool Wrap.

Why, then, might this be happening?

Well, Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich -- for all the problems Popeyes had with the supply -- showed that there was a rather large interest in the spicy chicken thing. For some peculiar reason, Popeyes had never enjoyed a chicken sandwich until last August. Within days, its spicy offering was seemingly just as famous as Chick-fil-A's.

So, as Chick-fil-A removes some items, it's expanding the test of Spicy Chick-n-Strips, a Grilled Spicy Deluxe Sandwich and a Spicy Chick-n-Strip Biscuit. Do we see a common denominator in these? Or perhaps two?

Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A admitted it might need to make at least some changes. At that time, it was the specter of vegetarian and vegan options that were being dangled.

But the potential of three new spicy chicken offerings might be considered not only radical, but also a concession that this chicken thing is going to get tougher. Much tougher. Especially as Americans are now eating far more chicken than beef. (35 pounds a year more each.)

Chick-fil-A may insist that these changes merely make its menu "a little bit simpler and a whole lot spicier," but this is surely a reaction to intensified competition.

I sense, indeed, that the Atlanta-based chain believes these new spicy chicken joys may be rolled out quite quickly. 

Why, the chain made an interim suggestion for the rest of America: 

If you aren't in one of the cities with the spicy additions, but you like to turn up the spice for breakfast, lunch or dinner, try spicing up your favorite Chick-fil-A meal with these spicy hacks!

This is serious.

Published on: Jan 4, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.