TakeAway: Wendy’s remakes its hamburger, after 42 years, to boost sales and grow share in the fast food wars … New burger or New Coke? … The market will ultimately decide.
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Excerpted from USAToday.com, “Wendy’s remakes its burgers; here’s how it did that”
Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy, named after late Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, is Wendy’s new burger — with extra cheese, a thicker beef patty, a buttered bun, and no mustard, among other changes …
“Our food was already good. We wanted it to be better. Isn’t that what long-term brands do? They reinvent themselves.”
Wendy’s started Project Gold Hamburger two and a half years ago to boost lackluster sales and fight growing competition from McDonald’s and expanding fast-casual chains, such as Five Guys …
But the biggest issue was that Wendy’s, which hadn’t changed its burger since the chain began in 1969, let its food offerings get stale over the years while its competitors continued to update their menus …
“We have a lot of catching up to do in some areas. But after we launch this hamburger there will be folks who need to catch up to us.”
Wendy’s polled more than 10,000 people about their likes and dislikes in hamburgers. It found that people like the food at Wendy’s but thought the brand hadn’t kept up with the times.
So, executives were shipped off to eat at burger joints around the country and measured each sandwich on characteristics like fatty flavor, salty flavor and whether the bun fell apart.
Then, it was time for Wendy’s researchers to consider the chain’s own burger, ingredient by ingredient. Each time they made a change, they asked for feedback, visiting research firms around the country to watch through two-way mirrors as people tried each variation.
Many suggestions sounded good but didn’t ring true with tasters.
- They tried green-leaf lettuce, but people preferred to keep iceberg for its crunchiness.
- They thought about making the tomato slices thicker but decided they didn’t want to ask franchisees to buy new slicing equipment.
- They even tested a round burger, a trial that was practically anathema to a company that’s made its name on square burgers.
Wendy’s ultimately did not go with the round shape, but changed the patty to a “natural square,” with wavy edges, because tasters said the straight edges looked processed.
Tasters said they wanted a thicker burger, so Wendy’s started packing the meat more loosely, trained grill cooks to press down on the patties two times instead of eight, and printed “Handle Like Eggs” on the boxes that the hamburger patties were shipped in so they wouldn’t get smashed.
Wendy’s researchers knew that customers wanted warmer and crunchier buns, so they decided that buttering them and then putting them through a toaster was the way to go.
In the end, Wendy’s researchers changed everything but the ketchup. They switched to whole-fat mayonnaise, nixed the mustard, and cut down on the pickles and onions, all to emphasize the flavor of the beef.
They also started storing the cheese at higher temperatures so it would melt better, … a change that required federal approval.
Wendy’s faces the reality that some customers may not like the new burger — or its likely price increase of 10 or 20 cents, because of the higher-quality ingredients.
Edit by KJM