Impish fast food brand Wendy’s is playing a game of hide and seek with one of its most popular menu items: the spicy chicken nuggets.
The snacks disappeared from the menu in March 2017, less than two months after they landed at the top of Ryan Sutton’s fast food nugget ranking. In the years since their disappearance, Wendy’s has become one of the most hyperactive fast food brands on social media, launching stunts like lifetime (non-spicy) nugget giveaway, and mixtape of dis tracks about its chain restaurant competitors. It should come as no surprise, then, that when Chance the Rapper tweeted an affirmation about the spicy nuggets back in May, Wendy’s seized the opportunity and offered to put them back on the menu in exchange for two million retweets.
Y’all keep asking, so here’s your chance.— Wendy's (@Wendys) May 4, 2019
The people in charge say if you guys can get our tweet (this one right here) to 2 Million likes, they will bring SPICY CHICKEN NUGGETS BACK.
Let’s freakin’ do this! https://t.co/qrtvWXjj9V
The spicy nugget fans played along by hitting that retweet button, and less than two days later, Wendy’s agreed to put them back on the menu. After keeping quiet about the nuggets for a few weeks, the chain cryptically tweeted out a Google Calendar invite this morning for “lunch at Wendy’s” on August 19. “Hey, just wanted to send a lunch invite out to everyone,” the event description reads. “Was looking at the calendar and this seemed like it was probably the best date. Figured it would be a good chance for a couple million of us to get together. Just thought we’d throw a little nugget out there and see who wanted to hang.” Later this afternoon, the brand tweeted out an image of a constellation of nuggets, along with that date:
Wendy’s never offered a clear explanation as to why the nuggets left the menu in the first place, but odds are the company wants to create a cult dish like the McRib that it could sporadically bring back to drum up excitement for the brand. This is, after all, a snack that “assaults the diner with a level of heat that builds and stings like no other dish in the modern fast-food industry,” according to Ryan Sutton.
The brand might also be using the spicy nugget return as a distraction, of sorts, from criticism over how Wendy’s refuses to work with tomato farmers who abide by the labor standards of the Fair Food Program. When the nugget stunt was announced back in May, Amy Schumer and Alyssa Milano both criticized Wendy’s on Instagram, with the Trainwreck star noting that the company is “the only fast food chain refusing to protect farmworker women from sexual assault and rape in the fields.” So far this year, there have been several protests against the chain at college campuses across the country, but Wendy’s has not announced any plans to make the switch to working with Fair Food Program-affiliated farms.
Stay tuned for updates on spicy nugget mania — and the Wendy’s backlash — as they become available.
• @wendys [Twitter]
• Amy Schumer, Alyssa Milano push back on hype over Wendy’s spicy nuggets [The Takeout]
• Why Wendy’s Is Facing Campus Protests (It’s About the Tomatoes) [NYT]
• Ranking America’s Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets [E]