UPDATE: Feb. 4, 2019: Wendy's breakfast menu will be available starting March 2, the company announced Tuesday in a press release.
- Wendy's will invest $20 million to launch a breakfast menu, which is currently available in over 300 restaurants, across its U.S. footprint next year according to a press release.
- The breakfast menu will include the Breakfast Baconater, Frosty-ccino and Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.
- The company plans to hire 20,000 people as part of its breakfast expansion.
Breakfast is an increasingly sought-after daypart for QSRs and fast casuals alike. It is also one area within the restaurant industry that is showing consistent growth. Traffic for the morning daypart made up 21% of restaurant traffic in 2018, compared to 19% in 2013. And there is a lot of opportunity to grow further, with only 13% of breakfast opportunities covered by foodservice and 9% are skipped or missed, according to NPD Group. In-home breakfasts also have declined eight meals per capita from 2015 to 2018.
If done right, breakfast can help bolster overall same-store sales, but Wendy's has yet to master this daypart. It has been in and out of the segment since the 1980s and already offers it at 300 restaurants. Its first efforts in breakfast lasted nine months after the chain realized its made-to-order breakfast items, which included omelets and French toast, couldn't compete with other chains that premade and delivered items quicker to customers. Wendy's also has done breakfast on and off so many times, including a breakfast value menu in 2010 and a McGriddle copycat in 2007, that it has caused confusion to customers over whether or not it actually offers it.
What is different now than previous attempts is that McDonald's has been struggling with growing its morning daypart and has had speed to service challenges that it's working on remedying. The chain slightly rebranded its McCafe in August and also ceded control of its all-day breakfast to its franchisees. Last month, McDonald's rolled out two new menu items, the Chicken McGriddle and McChicken Biscuit, to its breakfast menu for a limited time. These sandwiches are no doubt meant to compete with Chick-fil-A, and could make it harder for Wendy's Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit to make a splash in the market.
Wendy's seems to be trying to compete with Chick-fil-A's chicken biscuit, one of the chicken chain's most ordered items, with its Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit as well. Panera also expanded its breakfast offerings with a revamped menu and coffee program. Dunkin' is also upping its breakfast game, adding a Beyond Meat breakfast sausage and trying new espresso drinks. Dunkin' has become a bigger threat to the morning daypart that even McDonald's rolled out Donut Sticks that looked quite similar to a popular Dunkin' menu item in 2018.
Wendy's may have a tough hill to climb to claim a permanent place in the morning daypart, but given McDonald's ongoing struggles to grow breakfast, now could be the time to jump into the segment. If done well, it could help maintain systemwide sales growth in North America, which reached 3% during the first half of the year compared to 2.7% in the first half of 2018.