Wendy's new "Right Price Right Size" value menu reflects the cost pressures faced by fast-food chains.(Photo: Reed Saxon, AP file)
NEW YORK -- In its latest push to establish itself as a purveyor of premium burgers, Wendy's is testing a pretzel bun.
Dublin, Ohio-based chain has started selling a bacon cheeseburger in
select locations made with a slightly heartier, pretzel-like bun.
A spokesman for Wendy's declined to confirm the tests or provide any
details, such as its price or where it's being sold. But the "Pretzel
Bacon Cheeseburger" was being advertised as a limited-time offer at a
Wendy's in Miami with others posting pictures and talking about it on
the social media site Twitter.
MORE: Wendy's value menu prices items 99 cents to $1.99
Wendy's executives have already
said they plan to use better breads in the year ahead as a relatively
low-cost way to raise perceptions about the quality of its food.
reliance on bread comes as rising costs for beef have pressured
restaurant chains that are struggling to keep prices down to hold onto
price-conscious diners. So Wendy's is hoping distinct breads can help
justify premium prices for some burgers.
The focus on bread is
part of Wendy's ongoing push to position itself on the higher end of the
fast-food pecking order in terms of quality. As such, the chain is also
working to revamp its restaurants with a modern look with causal
seating areas more reminiscent of fast-casual chains such as Panera.
Sanchez, a 20 -year-old student, said he tried the pretzel bacon burger
after seeing it advertised when he walked into a Wendy's in Coral
Springs, Fla. He said it was better than he expected, with the roll
being a little heartier than the typical Wendy's hamburger buns but
still soft. Even though the beef patty seemed no different, he said the
"pretzel roll made it a lot cooler."
"It's like something you'd see at an actual burger place, not a fast food restaurant," he said.
executives discussed the possibility of the pretzel bun at an investor
conference this summer, albeit on a "Pub Club Sandwich." Gerard Lewis,
who heads innovation at the chain, said during the conference that the
goal was to provide "five-star quality breads at three-star pricing." He
noted that Wendy's has own its own bakery, giving it more flexibility
to make different kinds of bread.
Shelly Thobe, who leads
hamburgers at Wendy's, said during the same presentation that breads and
buns are important visual cues for customers who tend to "eat with
their eyes." She said the pretzel bun give Wendy's something other
chains don't have.
As another example of its work in bread, Lewis outlined the company's plans to use flatbreads with chicken.
chicken on a hamburger bun is yesterday's news," he said. "We're going
to explore flatbread as the carrier for grilled chicken."
Wendy's pushes to reinvent itself, however, the value menus remain a
staple for the chain and the broader fast-food industry. But in a nod to
rising costs for ingredients, Wendy's recently did away with the
"99-cent" menu in favor of a value menu called "Right Size Right Price"
to give it more flexibility in offering foods at prices up to $2.