By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
Wendy’s is adding a new menu item that includes some back-to-school nostalgia.
Beginning August 15, the chain is adding french toast sticks to its breakfast menu. Made from thick Texas-style toast, it’s described in a press release as having the “perfect balance of a soft, custardy interior and crisp, golden-brown crust with delicious notes of vanilla.” Each purchase also includes a syrup for dipping.
The french toast sticks are available four-piece or six-piece a la carte option and in a six-piece combo. It marks Wendy’s first sweet addition to its breakfast menu, which has been dominated with savory items, such as the Breakfast Baconator, and the spicy, including the recently added Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit.
“When we jumped into the breakfast menu, we were very specific with the items we brought forth, but always knew that we would want to bring sweet in the right way,” Carl Loredo, Wendy’s chief marketing officer, told CNN Business in an exclusive interview. “This was our foray into that.”
Customer demand and research led Wendy’s to adding french toast sticks, with portability playing a “giant role” for its addition, Loredo said. He added that Wendy’s isn’t taking anything off the menu.
“As we launched breakfast, the goal all along was righting the wrongs of the boring and bland breakfasts that was out there,” he said, adding that the french toast sticks continues to “build on that promise.”
Prices vary by location, with the starting price of $2.79 for the four-piece a la carte option and ranging to $6.19 for the six-piece combo that includes seasoned potatoes and a drink.
Battle for breakfast
Wendy’s launched breakfast in March 2020, a few weeks before Covid overtook the United States. It was an instant success for the chain as consumers kept coming back even as morning routines shifted and other chains saw their morning sales dry up.
But breakfast hasn’t been enough to boost sales significantly in recent months.
“The breakfast environment was no doubt challenged across the industry … impacting our full year breakfast sales growth expectations,” said CEO Todd Penegor during a May 2022 analyst call. He added that it “delivered solid results at the breakfast day part.” Wendy’s increased its share in that mealtime compared to other fast-food restaurants, he said.
Adding french toast sticks ahead of the back-to-school season could help juice Wendy’s sales, especially as its rivals bounce back. A recent report from research firm NDP Group revealed that business for mornings has remained steady in the second quarter of 2022, while other parts of day (including lunch and dinner) declined in the midst of rising menu prices.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a recent earnings call that breakfast was its “strongest performing daypart,” adding that it feels good about it. “It’s a change. If you remember, a few years ago, I think there were a bunch of questions about breakfast,” he conceded.
Other chains are bolstering the offering too, including Taco Bell, which brought breakfast back to mostly all of its locations last year. Starbucks also reported earnings that were better than analysts’ expectations, despite selling a chicken and egg breakfast sandwich it had to puil off menus because it made some people sick.
Wendy’s reports earnings on Wednesday.
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