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May152019

Wendy's

Wendy's “Quality is our Recipe” brand positioning stresses a commitment to fresh, never frozen, North American beef in the form of distinctively square cooked-to-order patties that are juicier, hotter and made with more melted cheese. The brand's “freshness” positioning is reinforced by: daily produce prep; bakery style buns; mayo on its burgers; and use of smaller birds which make its chicken fillets more tender & juicy. Wendy's menu strategy is to: reinforce its hamburger quality leadership; raise consumer expectations with its chicken products; drive unique visits through salads & beverages; innovate with on-trend flavors; and offer a multi-faceted approach to price/value. Menu renovations extend beyond upgrades to more tender and juicy burgers/chicken to improvements across all menu items including salads & fries. While the chain's successful 4 for $4 value platform is driving traffic, the challenge is to move beyond traffic-drivers to mix drivers with its $5+ price point offers that should represent the reward for Wendy's high quality QSR+ halo. Marketing is well balanced between mainstream media (TV) and social media marketing which is anchored by a 5 person team well known for aggressive comebacks (particularly as it relates to securing credit for its use of costly fresh beef) and progress with consumer-facing digital initiatives include the initiation of mobile ordering, mobile offers as well as the roll-out of delivery. Facilities benefit from lower cost fast casual-like remodel options which work better for lower AUV stores and 50% of the system is currently updated. However, despite executing around all these elements for improvement, comps have generally underperformed the segment average even though they have been positive since 2011. Resultantly, store-level EBITDAR margin pressure reflects that AUV growth has not kept pace with higher food and labor costs. In conclusion, while Wendy's is doing a good job of accentuating all the accompanying elements around its fresh beef/premium positioning, the 5th largest player in the QSR sandwich segment is still working on the mechanics of translating this core competency into a higher check sufficient to drive comp outperformance.

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