One year ago, Wendy’s (NASDAQ: WEN) announced it was getting back into breakfast after years without a nationwide program. When the news hit, there were some valid questions about what’s different now compared to the several other attempts the company made over the years.
Now, a year after the announcement and with a few months of COVID-19-era traffic, Wendy’s breakfast is looking pretty good, as BTIG restaurant analyst Peter Saleh noted in recent research.
"Breakfast has reached 8 percent of sales just four months after launch, a considerable achievement given the advertising and morning ritual disruption seen in recent months, and management plans to return to heightened advertising support," wrote Saleh.
It really is an achievement, to break into a ritualistic daypart given people’s commutes and that scores of people working from home aren’t commuting at all.
Traffic analysis and data firm Sense360 quantified the traffic surge—and it really has been a surge—for the daypart. When the breakfast program launched in March, Wendy’s share of breakfast traffic jumped by 80 percent, capturing 3.7 percent of all restaurant visits measured by the firm. It dipped to a 46 percent bump year over year, but as colleges started to reopen and more people were returning to work in August, traffic rose again to a positive 50 percent.
The bulk of market share has come from people that over index toward McDonald’s, according to consumer categories used by Sense360, but Burger King also lost traffic year over year.
Wendy’s announced it would push more marketing around breakfast. CEO Todd Penegor said it would be a long-term investment to break into the daypart, but the performance is already strong for a competitive segment.
From here, there are two possible scenarios, as laid out by Cowen analyst Andrew Charles. One, the value marketing resonates and the concept continues with 1.5 to 2 percent same-store sales growth. Two, the marketing (or the food and value) doesn’t keep people coming back and the up to $13 million in additional marketing is wasted.
As McDonald’s increases its U.S. marketing budget by 23.5 percent, it’s a bit of a toss-up between the two outcomes.