[Oct. 5 Update: Bacon Deluxe is now included on Wendy’s online menu. Click here.] Having told Wall Street analysts for the past several months that Wendy’s brand turnaround would kick into high gear in the fourth quarter, Wendy’s/Arby’s Restaurant Group President-CEO Roland Smith isn’t wasting time. According to operators, the chain next week will be rolling out the new Bacon Deluxe cheeseburger that is a key element in the third-largest burger chain’s aggressive plan to be a more focused and formidable player in the quick-service marketplace.
The Wendy’s system apparently shares Smith’s enthusiasm for the new strategies so much that one operator told BurgerBusiness.com that he plans to “jump the gun” and put the new burger ( in Single, Double and Triple sizes) on the menu on Oct. 2. Others also could do so, and a few who were contacted said they plan to introduce the burger on Monday (Oct. 5) but more were calling next Wednesday or Thursday their opening days.
When the curtain rises on advertising in support of the Bacon Deluxe is unclear. Wendy’s Chief Marketing Officer Ken Calwell said The Kaplan Thaler Group would create the campaign when he announced in July that the New York agency would take over the approximately $275 million account from recently renamed Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners. A new positioning line—succeeding “It’s waaaay better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s”—will be the centerpiece for one of the year’s most eagerly awaited marketing campaigns. Calwell earlier said Kaplan Thaler’s hiring was integral to the strategy to “build Wendy’s reputation as the quality leader in the hamburger quick-service restaurant category.”
Burger rival McDonald’s will be visible everywhere next week in support of its Monopoly promotion, with the first $1 million roll coming Oct. 6 on NBC’s “Jay Leno Show.” It’s possible Wendy’s would try to get a jump on that ad juggernaut by breaking Bacon Deluxe advertising Oct. 2 as part of its “ESPN Football Friday” sponsorship.
In May, some eight months after the Wendy’s/Arby’s merger was announced, Smith first told Wall Street that the company intended to add a new Wendy’s signature burger by year-end. The chain tested at least two indulgent, bacon-topped burgers—the Bacon & Blue and the Bacon Deluxe—before announcing in August that the Bacon Deluxe, topped with thick applewood-smoked bacon, would get a national rollout. Smith told analysts that the new cheeseburger “will feature juicier beef, an improved bun, bacon cooked from scratch in our stores and improved packaging. We believe this great new cheeseburger will strengthen Wendy’s position as having the best tasting and highest quality hamburger in the QSR universe.”
Creating a stronger new-menu-product pipeline and overhauling its test-marketing approach are among steps in Calwell’s brand-rebuilding plan. Other efforts have included creating a new, clear brand strategy, reorganizing the marketing department and creating a “brand book” to keep all brand initiatives consistent and on point.
In June, Wendy’s went national with the three-flavor Boneless Wings line. Recently it also began testing a Smokehouse BBQ Wrap, which folds the boneless-chicken pieces, crispy onion rings and the same bacon included on the Bacon Deluxe inside a cheese-infused tortilla. Additional full-size wraps, possibly replacing the snack-size Go Wraps on menus now, are being considered, according to operator sources.