The fast-food landscape is always competitive. With so many chains competing within the market and emerging fast-casual chains taking a portion of market share, fast-food companies are being forced to innovate. Recently, Wendy's has shown that it is willing to make the changes necessary to reach modern consumers.
In a move mirroring efforts by rival McDonald's, Wendy's plans to install self-ordering kiosks at about 1,000 locations by the end of 2017. At a typical location, the company will install three kiosks. Higher-volume restaurants will be given priority for the rollout, and according to chief information officer David Trim, the technology is intended to appeal to younger customers and reduce labor costs, reported Yakima Herald-Republic (Feb. 26).
Technomic's vice president Darren Tristano thinks the move is a smart one. "They are looking to improve their automation and their labor costs, and this is a good way to do it.. They are also trying to enhance the customer experience. Younger customers prefer to use a kiosk," he said.
Additionally, Wendy's met its goal of reducing company-operated restaurants by 5% in 2016. During the year, the company sold 310 company-owned stores to franchisees. Same-store sales grew 0.8% during the company's latest quarter, reported MarketWatch (Feb. 16).
However, self-ordering kiosks and franchised stores won't make a difference without providing high-demand food items. To that end, the company is testing new products to convert occasional customers into repeat visitors. New offerings include a Green Chile Queso burger, Bacon Queso Burger, Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger, Bacon Portobello Swiss burger, Fresh Mozzarella Chicken sandwich, Bacon Maple Chicken sandwich on a croissant and Fresh Mozzarella salad, as well as a proprietary line of sodas, reported Columbus Business First (Feb. 17).
Fast food outlets have also been successfully rolling out meal deals. McDonald's implemented it's McPick 2 pairings, Burger King has a 5 for $4 dollar meal and Wendy's has its own 4 for $4 Meal. The company recently added its Double Stack hamburger to the deal, expanding the selection to three sandwich options. Although the program is intended to be a limited time offer, the move showcases Wendy's commitment to providing more options for its consumers.
If self-ordering kiosks are intended to be a bridge to the Millennial generation, the company's Twitter feed could be a full-fledge superhighway. The company's public relations team has shown it isn't afraid to rebuke customers and offer some sass to rivals. Most corporate entities are loath to engage with online trolls, but Wendy's seems comfortable to respond with "delete your account" and other popular Twitter phrases. When @dpeacock980 asked the company how much a Big Mac costs, it immediately fired back: "Your dignity," reported Entrepreneur (Jan. 9).
It remains to be seen how the company's new focus on technology will play out. Certainly, one ill-timed comment on Twitter could illicit a firestorm of rage from social media networks, but so far, Wendy's has toed the line between inappropriate and funny quite well. However, when it comes to new business ideas, self-ordering kiosks, expanded product offerings and franchise-operated restaurants appear to be successful ideas that push the company to the forefront of the fast food market.
Chris is a business writer and market analyst that focuses on the Markets, Legal and Washington sections of the Food Institute Report. In addition, he assists in compiling data for various Food Institute publications throughout the year. He invites you to contact him via email at email@example.com to talk about anything food-related.
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