Freezer burn! Wendy's taunts McDonald's over its beef again

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Credit: Wendys

Wendy's is renewing its attack on McDonald's burgers with a new spot running on college football games that delivers a swift kick to its rival.

In the new commercial breaking Sept. 8, Wendy's lists the burgers made with frozen patties at McDonald's. The spot includes an excerpt from a Fast Company article that says the chain began selling fresh beef patties after finding flash-freezing made burgers dry and not hot enough for customers. The spot later shows a screaming shock face emoji in reference to the Big Mac.

McDonald's has been selling burgers with fresh (not frozen) quarter pounder-sized patties across the U.S. for a few months in a push to appeal to more discerning diners. Still, its burgers made with patties of other sizes, including the Big Mac, continue to be made with flash-frozen patties.

The freezer-burn tactic is one Wendy's has used before, including in numerous social media posts and memorably in its 2018 Super Bowl commercial, and the chain says the in-your-face approach is paying off. "The impact of the Super Bowl stuff was terrific for us," says Kurt Kane, Wendy's chief concept and marketing officer. The Big Game spot tested well for memorability and purchase intent and scored well in areas including quality perception and likeability, Kane says. Those kinds of stats gave the chain confidence to continue doing its fresh-not-frozen affront.

Wendy's, which is in its second year as the official hamburger of the NCAA, also ran a 15-second ad with a dig at McDonald's during Labor Day weekend's games. "We've gotten nothing but positive feedback," Kane says of the ads that push directly on McDonald's since it's the largest chain using frozen beef.

Of course, this is fast food, so deals matter, too. Wendy's is still running value-focused ads, including for its 50-cent Frosty offer. And there will be an offer for a free Wendy's single burger, available for the rest of the month, to users of Wendy's app. The chain has seen use of the app increase now that there are promotional offers available, Kane says.

Wendy's will also feature its burgers during Wendy's College Tailgate Tour. The second year of that pre-game event includes a customized food truck set up outside 13 football games, and is run by Endeavor Global Marketing's IMG Live.

Overall, Wendy's sales are holding up. Second-quarter North American same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 1.9 percent, although that came after a 3.2 percent increase a year earlier. Last month, the company said it still expected North American same-store sales to rise 2 to 2.5 percent this year. Delivery through DoorDash has helped, as delivery orders are typically about 1.5 to 2 times as large as in-restaurant ones. And Wendy's is offering free delivery this weekend.

Wendy's, the No. 3 burger chain behind McDonald's and Burger King, hasn't yet decided whether to return for a third consecutive Super Bowl in 2019 but has "been thrilled with our participation in the game the last couple of years," Kane says.

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