Wendy’s begins its big breakfast push and rivals are ready
Wendy’s is making its biggest attempt yet to snag a bite of the breakfast business, and its competitors are armed with deals that just so happen—OK, were absolutely, totally planned—to coincide with the launch.
Wendy’s officially launches its breakfast menu on March 2, though many of its restaurants are already serving the Breakfast Baconator and other delicacies.
Wendy’s has had limited success in past attempts to crack into the breakfast business. This time, it seems to be much more prepared—although so do its rivals. The fast-food restaurant chain announced its 2020 breakfast intentions back on Sept. 9 and unveiled its March 2 launch date on Feb. 4.
“Since everybody knows there’s a new entrant coming into the breakfast daypart, we would have expected it to be highly competitive, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said in a conference call on Feb. 26.
McDonald’s on Friday said it is calling Monday, March 2 "National Egg McMuffin Day." It’s offering anyone with its app a free Egg McMuffin from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Monday, which of course is the same day as Wendy’s big rollout. McDonald’s has already been promoting value deals such as 2 for $4 offers on the Sausage McMuffin with Egg, Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit, and Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles.
Wendy’s, meanwhile, hired McDonald’s former chef Mike Haracz to promote its breakfast on social media and on TV.
For months, Wendy’s has insisted that it is ready for the stepped-up efforts across the industry.
“Honestly, the louder the fight gets, the better it is for our breakfast business,” Kurt Kane, Wendy’s U.S. president and chief concept officer, said in October.
Wendy’s said on Feb. 26 that it plans to spend about $40 million to $50 million on breakfast advertising, as part of the total $70 million to $80 million dedicated to breakfast advertising this year, with the rest coming out of the ad funds it already gets from franchisees. The increased spending means Wendy’s working media weight will be up about 30 percent this year. The company is in a bit of a breakfast startup mode pointing out it expects to have a loss on its breakfast business in 2020, due to the investments it is making in marketing.
Others are making investments, too. Some Chick-fil-A restaurants, including those in the Chicago area, are offering a free breakfast item each Tuesday in March.
Chick-fil-A for years has been promoting chicken for breakfast and has seen rivals including McDonald’s, and now Wendy’s, try to stake their claim.
“We believe this product easily goes head to head versus the competition and is far greater in terms of the overall flavor profile,” Wendy’s Chief Marketing Officer Carl Loredo said of the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit sandwich at a pre-launch press event earlier this month.
Burger King said earlier this month that it has initiatives planned around breakfast, but didn’t elaborate.
Wendy’s is even taking aim at Starbucks with its Frosty-ccino, pointing out at the press event that the coffee drink has half the calories of a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino.
Other breakfast players are making their own moves. Panera this week announced unlimited coffee for $8.99 a month. Jack in the Box, which has offered breakfast items all day for years, is working on a new coffee.
Dunkin’, meanwhile, is now selling bags of bacon meant for “snackin’,” as the company spells it. For those keeping track, there are eight half-slices of sweet pepper bacon in a serving of Snackin’ Bacon, and six strips of Applewood smoked bacon on the Wendy’s Breakfast Baconator. (You’re welcome, cardiologists of America, for the expected increase in business.)
Dunkin’ also brought back its Egg White Bowl and Sausage Scramble Bowl, and added its Sausage, Egg & Cheese Wake-Up Wraps to its Go2s menu, at two for $3, through mid-May.
And for the oddest-sounding item amid all of this breakfast madness, Einstein Bros. Bagels introduced the “Bagelrito” nationwide on Feb. 27, following a five-restaurant test in the fall.
What’s a Bagelrito? So glad you asked. The bagel-meets-burrito concoction is two eggs, bacon, turkey sausage, three kinds of cheese, hashbrowns, salsa and green chilies stuffed in a flour tortilla, then wrapped into Asiago bagel dough and baked.
Contributing: Ilyse Liffreing