Wendy's has become a popular go-to breakfast destination for Americans during the pandemic. The fast-food company launched its successful morning daypart in March of 2020, just as other chains began to see declines in breakfast sales. But against all odds, Wendy's breakfast became a major driver behind the chain's recovering sales, and it took the spot of the most buzzed-about breakfast in the country.
"We came into the morning daypart as an underdog, and we launched it in the midst of COVID. And yet here we are—less than a year into it, and we're matching competitors who have been in the market for 50 years," Carl Loredo, the chain's chief marketing officer, said during a live webcast on Wednesday. (Related: McDonald's Is Making These 8 Major Upgrades.)
Wendy's was able to gain the enormous traction at breakfast with nimble marketing strategies, which sought to reach customers in new ways (while gaming or binge-watching their favorite shows, for example). But it was an operation set up for pandemic success from the get-go, because it was tailored for drive-thru success, according to Loredo. Wendy's also onboarded four major delivery partners and pivoted to a new way of doing business—fast.
At the end of the day, the fast-food chain believes none of these moves would have made an impact had it not been for its most powerful weapon in the breakfast wars: the cut-above-the-rest breakfast options.
"It really comes down to our breakfast menu," Loredo said. "It's something that our consumers love, and nobody can touch in the marketplace."
From familiar, comfort-food brunch flavors like maple-honey butter and hollandaise, Wendy's set out to one-up the boring homemade breakfast Americans had suddenly found themselves sentenced to during the pandemic, John Li, the chain's vice president of culinary innovation, said.
"Why wait till Saturday or Sunday to have a wonderful brunch experience?" Li asked. "We built that thinking into every single sandwich and every item that you see on our breakfast menu."
However, Wendy's may still have a few more tricks up its sleeve when it comes to innovating at breakfast time. The company teased a potential spicy addition to its morning daypart, for one.
"We'll continue to find ways to spice up our menu when it comes to breakfast," Loredo added, hinting that the chain had taken note of the popularity of its Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Spicy Chicken Nuggets. "We love the storyline that is from our spicy chicken sandwich to the spicy nugz that folks love, and so, we'll continue to lean in there."
Another innovation could come in the Frosty category, Li said. "There is stuff that we are always working on in the space of Frosty—not just the Frosty-ccino but the Frostys for the rest of the day," he continued.
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