“Choose wisely, choose Wendy’s” positioning is supported by: quality leadership around its cooked-to-order burgers (distinguished by square patties) made with fresh, never frozen North American beef; efforts to raise consumer expectations with its chicken products; leverage around its equity in bacon (Baconator); ability to drive unique visits through salads & beverages; innovation with on-trend flavors; and a “one more visit and one more dollar” low/high marketing strategy which is designed to use value to drive frequency and premium trade-up to drive check. Wendy’s states that it is the home of the #1 bacon cheeseburger (Baconator) and a new grill rollout should further improve its burger quality. Notably, the chain has either grown or maintained dollar & traffic share in the QSR burger category every quarter for the last 7 & 5 years, respectively. As only 1/3 of Wendy’s customers have tried their breakfast, management believes there remains substantial opportunity for this daypart and, to this end, the brand plans to strengthen its credibility around coffee beyond its existing beverage platform which currently features vanilla & chocolate Frosty-ccinos and cold brews. An attractive value bundle platform includes: $3 Breakfast Deal; 4 for $4; $5 Biggie Bag; and $6 Biggie Bag. Notably, Wendy’s mix of high-check digital sales reached 11%+ during 1Q:23, with a mid-teen sales mix expected by 2025. Long-term comp guidance (beyond 2023) calls for low-single-digit growth and its goal to increase an already record high AUV is based on: a high-low check building strategy; ramping breakfast sales; improving experience through people activation & customer service; and leveraging high ticket mobile pay/ordering & delivery. Having said all this, it is notable that Wendy’s below average check is inconsistent with the brand’s premium positioning. Also, a 2022 system worst store-level EBITDAR margin reflects elevated food & labor costs. In conclusion, while Wendy’s has done well to magnify its significant menu prowess sufficient to generate a respectable +18% cumulative U.S. comp growth from 2019 – 2022, the chain must continue to work to translate its QSR+ positioning into increased frequency from a higher income demo sufficient to drive a higher check and store level profits.
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