Wendy’s Product Managers Take On Breakfast

Wendy's wants to bring in more customers in the morning
Wendy’s wants to bring in more customers in the morning
Image Credit: Mike Mozart

So here’s a quick question for you: what’s the most important meal of the day? If you said breakfast, then the product managers at Wendy’s would agree with you. Wendy’s has decided to once again make an attempt to expand their product development definition and start to offer breakfast items in an effort to attract more customers to their stores in the morning. The market for breakfast foods is a crowded market and the Wendy’s product managers may be up against some stiff competition: how can they be successful?

The Fast Food Breakfast Market

Currently, Wendy’s does not serve a breakfast meal. In the past they did make an attempt to serve breakfast but their attempt floundered and they eventually pulled it. The breakfast meal market is so attractive that Wendy’s and a number of other fast food companies are all planning on jumping in. When they do, they will be joining McDonalds, Burger King, and Duncan who are already offering breakfast meals to their customers.

One of the reasons that the Wendy’s product managers are so interested in starting to serve breakfast is because breakfast visits have risen by 7.7% at fast food restaurants in the past five years. This is the kind of thing that would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. The amount of money that has been spent on breakfast foods has increased by 31%. At the same time, the number of visits during lunch and dinner have dropped by 1% across the same time period. What seems to be happening is that U.S. customers are starting to give up eating cereal at home and are instead seeking out egg-and-sausage sandwiches. This change in eating behavior has been fueled, at least in part, by a dietary trend toward eating more protein.

Just offering breakfast may not be a magic cure for all problems. The companies that are currently offering breakfast meals are finding sustained breakfast business hard to come by. The growth in customers visiting a fast food restaurant for breakfast peaked three years ago and only had a 1% increase in the past year. However, the Wendy’s product managers believe that this is the way to go. They are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars and hire thousands of workers in order to start to serve breakfast at roughly 6,000 locations in the U.S.

How Wendy’s Hopes To Be Successful At Breakfast

This time around Wendy’s has a new plan that they hope will allow them to be successful at breakfast. They are going to be offering a simpler menu that will be meat-focused. This menu will contain such items as a Baconator sandwich and a honey butter chicken biscuit. The hope is that this approach will make breakfast profitable for Wendy’s after they have failed three other times to do so. Wendy’s goal is to eventually have breakfast account for 10% of their total U.S. sales which will translate into US$1B.

There are some people who study the breakfast food market that think that the Wendy’s product managers are being too aggressive. The thinking is that Wendy’s is late in coming to the breakfast food market. Since their competition knows that they will be entering this market, they will have time to prepare for them. It is expected that Wendy’s competition will start to offer discounts in order to hold on to their customers. McDonalds and Burger King have already spend years focused on offing breakfast foods with mixed results.

This time around Wendy’s has spent two years trying to come up with a way to make their breakfast offerings be a success. They have taken the time to involve their executives, their board members, and their franchisees in their decision making process. The Wendy’s product managers are saying that they are prepared to do what it takes to win. In the past, their efforts faced pushback from their competition, had too little advertising, and used a regional approach. This time around the Wendy’s product managers are planning a national advertising campaign and they have reduced their menu to 18 items that are focused on take-out, down from 45 items last time.

What All Of This Means For You

The Wendy’s product managers have a big task in front of them. They have taken a look at their product manager job description and decided that they want to expand into the breakfast food market. This is something that they have tried to do three times before and failed each time. They know that they will be doing battle with well-established firms such as McDonalds and Burger King. In order to be successful this time around, they are going to have to do something different.

Right now Wendy’s does not serve breakfast food. They have tried in the past, but those attempts never worked out. The Wendy’s product managers are motivated to try again because sales of breakfast foods has been growing while sales of lunch and dinner meals has been going down. Just starting to offer breakfast may not be a magic cure. The companies that are currently offering breakfast foods, McDonalds and Burger King, have struggled to make their breakfast business profitable. Wendy’s is planning on offering a simpler menu this time around. Some people think that Wendy’s is coming to this party too late to be successful. However, the Wendy’s product managers believe that they will be successful because they will be offering a smaller menu that is designed for takeout.

The good news is that the Wendy’s product managers have a great deal of experience with breakfast food – they have tried to launch this product three times in the past. The big question is if they will be successful this time. It appears as though they have learned from their mistakes and they now understand that they need to keep their menu small and make their food well-suited to takeout orders. They are going to have to make sure that they will be able to deal with the competition that they will undoubtedly get from the other players in this market. If they play their cards right, they may be able to get a seat at the fast food breakfast table.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think that the Wendy’s product managers could do to make their breakfast foods different from all of the other offerings?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Quick quiz: where have you been eating your meals lately? Perhaps a better version of this question would be: how many times have you eaten at home lately? If you are like most of us, your answer is going to be mixed. Yeah, you might grab a breakfast at home, but do you take your lunch to work? How about dinner – do you eat at home or go out? Since you are not eating at home as much as you should, you are starting to cause problems for packaged food product managers.