The fast-food giants both want McDonald’s spot as the top chain around the world.
Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Wendy’s Company (The) Report barged its way into the fast-food hamburger battle, where it has earned the right to be talked about alongside its legendary, pioneering rivals. That’s impressive because it’s rare in the global (or even the United States) market where a duopoly turns into a three-way battle.
Coke (COKE) – Get Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc. Report has Pepsi, but no other soda brand has ever even sniffed being a worthy rival to those two. The same can be said about Lowe’s and Home Depot (HD) – Get Home Depot Inc. (The) Report, as well as Target (TGT) – Get Target Corporation Report and Walmart (WMT) – Get Walmart Inc. Report (at least from a brick-and-mortar sense). You might see a winner in a duopoly battle (rest in peace, Borders Books) but you rarely see a true third contender emerge,
Wendy’s started in 1969 after McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report in 1955 and Burger King, which is now owned by Restaurant Brands International (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc. Report, in 1954. That’s a pretty big lead and even during the height of “Where’s the Beef” mania, (RIP Clara Peller) Wendy’s was still only a distant third.
That has changed. Wendy’s has passed Burger King in the United States for the number two spot behind McDonald’s. And while neither company will likely catch Mickey D’s when it comes to U.S. or global sales, there are always ways to close the gap.
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Burger King and Wendy’s Take Different Menu Directions
Burger King has been a global innovator for the past few years. That has included trying some pretty outrageous ideas all around the world that may never make it to its home market.
Wendy’s has been more measured in its innovations. The chain offers small tweaks to its favorites as limited-time offers (LTOs), but it rarely does anything as shocking as some of Burger King’s takes on its signature Whopper sandwich.
What Wendy’s has done really well is create new platforms that can be expanded into product lines. The most successful of these has been the Baconator, a sandwich where customers can pick how many patties they get on a sandwich that, as its name implies, comes loaded with bacon.
This has spawned the Breakfast Baconator, which substitutes sausage for the hamburger and Baconator Fries. That’s where Burger King has stepped in.
Burger King Borrows a Wendy’s Idea
The idea of putting cheese and bacon on fries isn’t something Wendy’s created, but it was a food type the chain made popular. Baconator Fries are a take on the pub/sports bar classic and Wendy’s has made them a menu staple.
Now, in the United Kingdom, Burger King has added Cheesy Bacon Loaded Fries to its menu. That’s not unusual behavior in the fast-food space as success almost always leads to imitation. McDonald’s, for example, brought the idea of the chicken nugget to fast-food burger chains and that’s now a menu item that every player has to have.
In this case, it’s actually surprising that Baconator Fries have not been knocked off by McDonald’s or Burger King in the U.S. With bacon already on the menu, doing so would only require adding a cheese sauce, and both chains have cheese sauces they have used on LTO burgers before.
And while adding a menu item in the U.K. does not always lead to it being introduced in the U.S., this seems like one that could (and probably should) cross the pond. McDonald’s has only very rarely offered versions of its famous french fries, but it would also make sense for the chain to try its take on bacon cheese fries.