Seeing Double on Wendy's 99-Cent Menu

Franchisees Divided Over Decision to Add Cheeseburger, Push Other Dollar Sandwiches

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CHICAGO ( -- While much of the fast-food industry is retooling its value proposition, Wendy's is doubling down with burgers. The chain is adding a "double stack" cheeseburger to its 99-cent menu and promoting its junior bacon cheeseburger and crispy chicken sandwich that are also selling for under a buck.
Wendy's stack attack is making way for another double cheeseburger.
Wendy's stack attack is making way for another double cheeseburger.

"The double stack is a proven store traffic and sales driver," Wendy's interim chief marketer Paul Kershisnik said in a statement. "While the sandwich has been offered over the years in a number of U.S. markets, this will be the first time we have rolled it out nationally."

The sandwich replaces the "stack attack," launched in December. Both products offer two patties, a slice of cheese, mayo and ketchup. The double stack adds mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.

Wendy's agency is MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

Cheeseburger war
The fast food industry rang in the New Year with a full-throttle dollar-double-cheeseburger war, but has started backing away from the sandwich in the face of higher commodity costs. McDonald's is conducting limited tests of the sandwich at higher prices, and in some cases with one slice of cheese, rather than the usual two. Burger King terminated a test of its larger double cheeseburger for a dollar.

"While our competitors are tinkering with pricing, we're coming right out of box with a trio of signature sandwiches priced at 99 cents," said Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini. "We believe this will immediately elevate our value menu and give value-driven consumers of all ages a compelling reason to come to Wendy's."

The chain's franchisees are divided over the decision, with some bemoaning the weight of commodity costs and others championing the opportunity to attract more hard-core burger lovers.

"Some people think it's an opportunity and some think they just can't keep doing these kinds of things," said one franchisee, adding that the chain needs to look at its entire menu-management strategy from value to breakfast (which is still being tested) and beverages, but most importantly what the franchisee called "premium-quality, innovative items that made Wendy's famous."

Bracing for changes
The chain's franchisees are also bracing for changes coming as part and parcel of a new management team. Wendy's is being acquired by Nelson Peltz's Triarc, and new executives will be taking the reins this fall. After a protracted battle for control of the chain, Mr. Peltz healed some wounds by tapping franchisee and competing bidder J. David Karam to serve as president. Former Domino's CMO and Wendy's marketer Ken Calwell will serve as chief marketer. Peltz-company veteran Roland Smith, who has also run Arby's, will serve as CEO.

"We're all still curious to see what happens here in another 20 or 30 days," the franchisee said. "I think we're all enthused by what we hear. We'll see once it comes."

Despite changes on the horizon, value menus continue to be a key battlefront. Burger King added wraps to its value menu earlier this week, and Taco Bell, which launched a value menu earlier this summer, is launching an 89-cent "volcano taco" tomorrow. The launch spot, from agency Draft FCB, Irvine, calls the item Taco Bell's spiciest product ever.

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