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Wendy’s tackles Five Guys and fast casual, introduces ‘W’ burger

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Wendy’s Co.'s new chief executive isn’t treading lightly, promising this week to pump up the chain’s breakfast offerings, introducing a new line of burgers and zeroing in on fast casual restaurants such as Five Guys.

In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, just two months into his tenure, Emil Brolick said Wendy’s is emerging from an “identity crisis” during which the company “went through a difficult period and lost clarity of vision.”

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In the third quarter ending Oct. 2, Wendy’s reported a nearly $4 million loss, equating to a drop of a penny per share, weighed down in part by costs related to the July 4 sale of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc.

But Brolick was looking ahead, eyeing a new crop of competitors. Wendy’s has higher-quality products that put it “at the very high end” of fast-food restaurants and more in line with the “superior overall experience” offered by the fast casual segment, he said.

“I’m not for the moment suggesting that we want to try to pretend to become a Five Guys or a Smashburger or something like that, because I think that would be a big mistake for us to do that,” Brolick said. “But I do believe that there’s a significant opportunity in the marketplace for higher-quality products that are fresh made-to-order products.”

Fresh off the popular debut of the remade Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy burger line, Wendy’s will also reveal its new “W” burger line later this month. The so-called mid-tier sandwiches will, at about $2.99 each, be a step above the chain’s value-menu offerings, Brolick said.

Breakfast, with items such as the Artisan Egg Sandwich, will also be a priority. Morning menus accounted for 92% of the overall traffic growth in the quick service restaurant segment over the last five years, he said.

Wendy’s is also testing new restaurant prototypes and is looking into wider international expansion, Brolick said.

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-- Tiffany Hsu


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