Wendy’s relaunched its national breakfast menu just weeks before states began issuing stay-at home orders due to COVID-19. While breakfast sales at most fast-food chains stagnated during the pandemic, the Wendy’s breakfast menu performed surprisingly well.
DEFYING THE ODDS
The Wendy’s breakfast daypart currently accounts for 7% of company sales, including 5.5% growth in the fiscal fourth quarter. Same-store sales so far in the first quarter of 2021 are up 6% and executives expect that figure to reach 10% for the full period, reported Restaurant Business (March 3).
These figures represent a strong start to a meal segment that Wendy’s has failed to launch successfully on three previous occasions. So, what factors set the recent menu rollout apart?
THE TASTE OF SUCCESS
The Wendy’s breakfast daypart menu is diverse, with options ranging from standard breakfast fare to signature recipe reboots. Five months into the relaunch, best-selling items included the Breakfast Baconator, honey butter chicken biscuit, maple bacon chicken croissant, and the iced coffee hybrid Frosty-ccino, according to CNN Business (Aug. 8, 2020).
The innovative nature of these top performers reflects how Wendy’s differentiated itself by reimagining everyday menu favorites and playing on popular trends like chicken sandwiches and indulgent nostalgia hybrids. The chain also protected its profit margins by building the new menu around recipes that did not require investments in new equipment.
To some extent, pandemic conditions contributed to Wendy’s positive sales performance.
According to a company press release, Wendy’s invested approximately $14.6 million in breakfast advertising in 2020, with the heaviest marketing push between February and March — the month leading up to the relaunch. This timing placed a unique spotlight on Wendy’s new lineup and consumers responded, seeking it out as they adapted to pandemic life.
As countrywide lockdowns restricted indoor dining, restaurant drive-thrus provided a relatively safe alternative. The Wendy’s breakfast daypart coupled this advantage with the appeal of comfort food in the morning and the excitement of tasting something new amidst the monotony of lockdown.
AN UPHILL BATTLE AHEAD
While noteworthy, Wendy’s breakfast earnings have yet to surpass those of its primary rivals, including McDonald’s, which saw a rebound in its fourth quarter breakfast sales, reported CNN Business (March 3). In 2021, the chain has plans to increase sales in the morning 30% by investing an additional $15 million in breakfast advertising, according to Restaurant Business.
In the months leading up to the pandemic, fast food competitors were well on their way to an all-out breakfast battle. As lockdown restrictions lift and commuting increases in the months ahead, the battle looks like it could reignite, with key QSRs planning aggressive strategies to reclaim their stakes in the breakfast game, according to CNN Business.