Taco Bell's sales are soaring thanks to this unexpected dish (YUM)

Kate Taylor
Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa 8

Hollis Johnson

Taco Bell's sales are soaring — and it's thanks to fried chicken. 

On Wednesday, Yum Brands reported that the Mexican fast-food chain's same-store sales grew 8% in the first quarter, with sales bolstered by the success of the chain's Naked Chicken Chalupa. Traffic grew by 5%, despite industry concerns of an incumbent restaurant recession. 

"We sold over 25 million Naked Chicken Chalupas, which illustrates the enthusiasm for our crispy chicken offerings," Yum CEO Greg Creed said in a call with investors. 

Creed said that $1 Double Stack Tacos and Triple Double Crunchwrap also helped boost sales. 

"Our high-low value strategy is working," he said. "Going forward you can expect to see continued focus on innovation and value with our $1.49 Loaded Beef Burrito and more "naked" products in our second quarter." 

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken

Business Insider

On Tuesday, Taco Bell announced that it would be rolling out its Naked Chicken Chips — the brand's take on the chicken nugget — nationally in mid-May. 

Fried chicken has become one of the hottest menu items in the fast-food industry, as chains such as Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Arby's invest in the dish. 

The chicken trend has its roots in economic realities, as in 2016 chicken prices were significantly lower than beef prices. However, prices have equalized — and chicken has become a star in its own right. While once seen as a greasy guilty pleasure, fried chicken managed to ditch its trashy reputation with the rise of fast-casual fried chicken sandwiches like Shake Shack's Chick'n Shack and celebrity chef David Chang's Fuku.

Now, after years of ground beef tacos, it's Taco Bell that's reaping the benefits of the rise of fried chicken. 

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