When Wendy’s announced that they would be launching a breakfast menu earlier this year, many people thought, “Why?” There were many reasons for doubters to speak out. First, the fast-food breakfast market is already extremely competitive, with most nationwide and many regional fast food brands already offering breakfast menus, so the market is fully saturated.
Beyond that, the timing could hardly have been worse for Wendy’s. The company’s planned start date for the nationwide rollout was March 2. This was at the very beginning of the spread of the pandemic. Two weeks later, the morning commute, which is harvest time for fast food breakfast sales, essentially evaporated as businesses coast-to-coast closed their doors.
Given the entrenched brands, as well as the dramatically reduced demand, conventional wisdom said that breakfast at Wendy’s should not have worked – at least right now. Except, not only did breakfast at Wendy’s work, several menu items have become massive hits for the fast-food brand. Breakfast quickly accounted for more than 8 percent of Wendy’s total sales, very close to the projected 10 percent the company hoped for by the end of the year, a projection made pre-COVID.
So, how did Wendy’s make it work? First sheer audacity. When they announced, critics immediately pounced, showering the announcement with doom-and-gloom projections that got the brand plenty of press. As more and more market watchers criticized the idea, more people heard about it and, since they were stuck home anyway, decided to give Wendy’s breakfast a try.
And, what did these people find when they checked out the new Wendy’s breakfast menu? An interesting “morning food” take on some of the chain’s most popular items. Fresh Wendy’s-specific ideas such as the Breakfast Baconator and the Fostyccinno joined fairly typical breakfast staples such as croissant sandwiches and a honey butter chicken biscuit. It was exactly the kind of hot comfort food many people were in the mood for.
While the menu offered a decent selection, Wendy’s kept it fairly simple and close to what they offered the rest of the day. That allowed them to offer breakfast without creating a lot of new training, procedural, or supply issues. And, while Wendy’s did choose to offer a few different coffee drinks, they didn’t go out of their way to try to compete head-to-head with specialty coffee shops.
In the end, aside from sheer daring audacity and taking advantage of the press surrounding the predicted miscue, Wendy’s success can be attributed to knowing their audience and knowing how to connect with them in a way that encourages them to try something new. The fact that the company was able to do so while proving so many of the doubters wrong is just so much more honey on the biscuit.