Wendy's Enters Quick Service Breakfast Fray With Bucks And Bluster

After much ado, Wendy’s launched its breakfast menu this week to a lot of fanfare and a plethora of reviews. Some were good, some were not, but all of them spelled the names of the offerings right.

Emily Heil sets the scene in The Washington Post: “Wendy’s on Monday began serving its new breakfast menu in a debut that was preceded by hype worthy of a blockbuster movie. The fast-food chain’s famously salty Twitter feed had for weeks been trolling its rivals’ morning menus in anticipation, and the company even lit up a Times Square billboard with images of its new lineup and its tagline, ‘You up for this?’



“We, of course, were. To see if all that Wendy’s swagger was warranted, we gathered a few fast-food-loving colleagues and ate our way through as much of the new menu as we could,” Heil adds.

Suffice to say that not everything was as good as the nine sandwiches that are the main fare -- but after Heil and her colleagues sampled five of them, she wrote: "Overall, they’re a reason to set your alarm."

“Wendy’s is using its brands to boost breakfast. The chain’s attention-getting anchor product is the Breakfast Baconator, a morning version of its popular Baconator sandwich. And it is using its popular Frosty brand for its Frosty-ccino beverage. The chain isn’t reinventing the wheel in the morning,” writes  Jonathan Maze for Restaurant Business.

Reviewing  the online chatter for Forbes the afternoon of launch day, John Brandon found that “social media followers are a bit divided. Is it better than what McDonald’s offers? Possibly. Does every shop offer the same options? It seems like it. In typical fashion, Wendy’s does not hold back when it comes to answering quips, although they tend to avoid complaints that seem unmerited or harsh.

“The one overarching theme that’s developing already? Ever since the fast-food chain announced they would offer breakfast (which apparently will cost them $1 billion as part of the roll-out), customers have been wondering how it would all pan out. Now we know. Some of the posters have noted the meal was not quite hot enough, and a few called out the chain for fake eggs,” Brandon adds.

Chicago Tribune food writer Louisa Chu gave the offerings a decidedly mixed review. 

“Overall the Breakfast Baconator sinks like a salty gut bomb with bacon cooked inconsistently, its colors spanning a fatty sunrise, from fleshy pink to chewy coral to crispy brown. Why would Wendy’s even bother to pit it against the Egg McMuffin? They’re completely different categories that appeal to opposite ends of the breakfast sandwich spectrum,” Chu opines.

On the positive side, though: “Wendy’s claims to freshly crack eggs for their breakfast sandwiches, which I couldn’t see to verify at the location I visited in the Kilbourn Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side. They were all surprisingly impressive in the nine sandwiches I tasted, cooked thoroughly, but with a thin, luscious orange yolk layer. McDonald’s take note, with your chalky yellow Egg McMuffin yolks.”

Meanwhile, the folks at McDonald’s Chicago HQ weren’t sitting idly. They declared Monday to be National Egg McMuffin Day. From 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. local time, customers could, for free, indulge in “the FIRST ever quick service restaurant breakfast sandwich, and arguably the BEST.” 

But you had to order it through the McDonald’s app.

“Increasing the McDonald's app’s user base is ‘key,’ according to Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy, because Monday's promotion could result in building customer loyalty: Customers might be enticed to come back because of future offers,” writes  Jordan Valinsky for CNN Business.

“Hottovy also that said offering free Egg McMuffins will keep the chain ‘top of mind’ because Wendy's is spending big -- upwards of $80 million this year -- to promote the new menu. ‘It's more of a defensive move rather than an offensive move,’ he said about the promotion,” Valinsky adds.

But Restaurant Business’ Maze raises some logistical issues for the upstart that don’t usually come up when marketing strategy is being hashed out.

“Wendy’s isn’t built for the mornings. Breakfast comes with some unique challenges for restaurant chains. In particular, it is the most habitual of dayparts, and customers will only go so far to try breakfast. For instance, commuting customers might not want to turn left to get their breakfast. Wendy’s might not have located its restaurants with right-in, right-out morning commuters in mind. That alone might be the biggest barrier between Wendy’s and a successful breakfast,” Maze writes.

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