Burger Wars Update – The King Has Lost His Throne

A girl named Wendy with red hair and $8.5 billion in revenue last year has replaced Burger King for the #2 fast food spot.

According to industry observers, Wendy’s momentum in 2011 all but assured this change would take place, although as late as last month on a quarterly earnings call, the company modestly predicted it would happen at some point this year.

This momentum didn’t get built overnight, Wendy’s has been pursuing its Recipe to Win strategy that will ultimately help deliver consumers a new fast food experience, while maintaining a fast food price point, which obviously is a difficult balance to strike.

According to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of food industry research firm Technomic in a recent article in The Atlantic, “Over the past several years Burger King has focused on ads. Wendy’s focused on its food. Turns out, when you’re running a restaurant, food matters more.”

Staying There, Harder Than Getting There

For Wendy’s, overtaking Burger King is not the end goal. In fact, according to their CEO Emil Brolick, “The next three years are going to be the most intense period of change in the history of the Wendy’s brand.” In a recent article in the industry publication, Nation’s Restaurant News, Wendy’s plans on addressing every aspect of its business model with significant investments by both franchisees and corporate. This will include new, modern restaurants and new menu items including the roll out of another day part with breakfast.

Meanwhile, the Golden Arches aren’t simply watching all this take happen. McDonald’s has recently been upgrading their menu and coffee selections. In addition, they plan to spend $1 billion to renovate their restaurants.

In addition to focusing on the food and facilities, Wendy’s is giving significant attention to its marketing efforts. According to Brolick, “Today, brand communication is not just about selling products, but it’s also competing for mind space, about making an emotional connection with consumers.” Certainly this is an idea that resonates on this blog.

In fact, Craig Bahner, Wendy’s new CMO starts work this week and is a 20 year veteran with Procter and Gamble, where he ran the company’s $2.2 billion hair division. Since he’s still finishing his employee paperwork, Bahner’s set of new initiatives is yet to be announced, but it certainly will be worth watching.

In the meantime, for more information on how you can create mindshare with your audience and engage the listeners who matter most by making an emotional connection, contact Andrew Curran about DMR 360.

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