Wendy’s is no longer a ‘square’

September 29th, 2011

For the first time in 42 years, Wendy’s has revamped its staple item, the old fashioned hamburger. Set to arrive on Oct. 4 in Cleveland, Dave’s Hot N’ Juicy burgers were named in honor of founder, the late Dave Thomas.

Wendy’s was in heavy pursuit of enhancing its menu, increasing revenue and combating constant competitors McDonald’s, Burger King and the like.

When other fast food chains incorporated line extensions and added new items, Wendy’s failed to keep up with the growing process.

According to Technomic, a research firm located in Chicago, in 2010 McDonald’s had 49.5 percent of the fast-food burger market in the U.S., up from 41.6 percent in 2002. During the same period, Wendy’s share fell to 12.8 percent from 14 percent. Burger King’s fell to 13.3 percent from 17 percent.

Concerned with its economic state, Wendy’s set out to makeover its hamburger. The 2 1/2 year project dubbed Project Gold Hamburger involved the company consulting over 10,000 customers via polls. The results from its surveys revealed that people enjoyed Wendy’s food but thought that the brand had failed at keeping up with the times.

“It will be interesting to see if it helps revamp Wendy’s image,” said senior Maddy Martucci.

After reviewing its findings, Wendy’s executives set out to embark upon a cross country burger tasting frenzy. They measured such hamburger characteristics as fatty flavor, salty flavor and whether the bun held its shape during consumption.

Wendy’s also measured its own hamburger’s, ingredient by ingredient. Each time researchers implemented a tweak, they asked for feedback, visiting research firms across the country to watch through two-way mirrors as members of the focus group sampled the variations.

Wendy’s even enlisted a pickle chemist, with thoughts of enhancing the taste of its hamburger. It also tried green-leaf lettuce, but customers preferred keeping iceberg for its crunchiness. The company considered making the tomato slices thicker but didn’t want to ask franchisees to buy new slicing equipment.

“I think this will be a good change, considering all of the energy they have put into research with what customers want in a burger,” said senior Erika Port.

The chain did the unthinkable and tested a round burger.

“It’s hurting them in the long-run,” said senior John Reynolds. “That was one of their signature styles. No square patties takes away from their identity.”

In the end, Wendy’s changed everything but the ketchup. It switched to whole-fat mayonnaise, ditched the mustard, cut down on the pickles and swapped the existing onions for red ones all to accentuate the flavor of the hamburger. The chain also started storing the cheese at higher temperatures so it would melt better, a change that required federal approval.