Menu Updates Feed Wendy's, Carl's Jr. Sales

Wendy's and Carl's Jr. are pulling out of slumps with creative menu offerings that spurred same-store sales increases this summer.

Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's added new items and riffed on old favorites to rev up sales. New on the menu are Frescata sandwiches (deli meats and ingredients piled on house-baked rolls, which bowed in April), while twists on old faves include a vanilla Frosty and the addition of a 99-cent crispy chicken sandwich to the Super Value menu.

The offerings helped Wendy's--which operates 6,746 restaurants--boost same-store sales by 4.7 percent in August, its best monthly increase in more than a year and a half.

"Our marketing strategy is revitalizing the Wendy's brand as we clarify our positioning with customers, improve our advertising messages and introduce new products," said Kerrii Anderson, Wendy's interim CEO and president, in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Carl's Jr. looked back a few years for menu inspiration. The 1,062-unit chain credits the reintroduction of its Pastrami Burger with increasing same-store sales 6.3 percent for the four-week period ending Aug. 14.



The Pastrami Burger--a patty topped with sliced pastrami, pickles and yellow mustard--"was a customer favorite during its limited run in late 2004, and fans have bemoaned its departure ever since," said Andrew F. Puzder, president and CEO of the Carpinteria, Calif.-based, 1,062-unit chain.

While the back-to-the-menu strategy works, it's not especially new. "When chains get in trouble, they usually go back to the product," said Ron Paul, president of Chicago-based Technomic Inc., the restaurant research firm. "Consumers like a reason to try you again, and new product gets them in the store."

Publicly held companies like Wendy's and Carl's Jr. are more likely to rely on new products to lure customers than their privately held competitors, Paul said. For instance, Columbus, Ohio-based White Castle and Irvine, Calif.-based In-n-Out Burger--both private companies--rarely tinker with their menus.

"Public companies are really under the spotlight with earnings and sales, so they have to be more aggressive," Paul said.

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