The Real Wendy Featured in Hot 'N Juicy Burger Rollout

Launch is One of Chain's 'Most Important Introductions'

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Wendy's is about to roll out one of its "most important product introductions" in recent memory, and it just so happens to have the words "hot" and "juicy" in the name.

Wendy's on Oct. 3 will nationally launch its Dave's Hot 'N Juicy cheeseburger, a product that the chain tested in five markets late last year. the burger is part of the chain's ongoing menu innovation plan, which also included last year's introduction of natural-cut sea-salt fries.

The ads for the test burger featured the real Wendy Thomas, the chain's namesake and daughter of founder Dave Thomas. Ms. Thomas's face has been part of the Wendy's brand since its founding in 1969, but the ads for this burger mark the first time she's appeared in any ads.

The chain earlier this year said the burger would go national, but remained mum on whether the real Wendy would be in the rollout ads. This week, though, the No. 3 burger chain posted a new ad for the burger also featuring Wendy on its website. the company didn't offer any comment for this story, but spokesman Denny Lynch in November said that the commercials airing in test markets fit in with the chain's "You know when it's real" campaign. the ad was produced by Wendy's agency, Publicis Groupe 's Kaplan Thaler Group.

Wendy's seems to be putting a lot of stock in the burger, a product that it touts as "40% thicker." In a second-quarter earnings call in August, Wendy's Co. then-president-CEO Roland Smith said, "our most important product introduction is coming this October when we will roll out our new line of Dave's Hot 'N Juicy cheeseburgers." He added that in the three markets where the Hot 'N Juicy was tested, Wendy's saw a "2% to 3% increase in same-store sales that we believe is attributable to an increase in premium hamburger sales."

The chain's North American 2.3% increase in same-store sales for the second quarter came after a rocky first quarter. Wendy's during that period posted flat North American same-store sales, but Arby's , which the company sold off in July to a buyer formed by Roark Capital Group, posted 5.5% growth.

During the second-quarter call, mr. Smith also said that while Wendy's has been gaining share in value, fries and salad, "our biggest opportunity is to build share in premium hamburgers." many fast feeders, such as McDonald's and Wendy's , have been focusing efforts on menu expansion and products other than hamburgers, leaving the door open for smaller so-called "better burger" chains like five Guys.

But the top chains -- especially Burger King and Wendy's -- appear to be returning to more promotion of burgers. Burger King in recent months has been advertising the Whopper again, and just last month began promoting the California Whopper, a more premium burger product.

Wendy's has had some turnover in the executive suite in recent months. CMO Ken Calwell in early June left Wendy's to helm pizza chain Papa Murphy's, and Wendy's has yet to name a replacement. mr. Smith earlier this month announced he was leaving his post as president-CEO but would remain on the board of directors. He was replaced by Emil Brolick, who was at Wendy's for 12 years prior to joining Yum Brands in 2000, where held various marketing and executive posts.

Wendy's in 2010 spent $283.1 million on measured media, down 4.2% from 2009, according to Kantar.

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