Atlanta Business News 9:26 a.m. Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wendy’s betting on new bacon burger

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Where’s the beef?

Starting this week, it’s right beneath thick-cut slices of applewood smoked bacon.

Wendy’s, part of the Atlanta-based Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, is launching a new Bacon Deluxe burger and advertising campaign designed to reinvigorate the brand.

A set of ads, featuring the tagline “You know when it’s real,” began airing late last week as part of a massive media blitz. It replaces the previous slogan, “It’s waaay better than fast food.”

The Bacon Deluxe burger is being added to store menus this week. The single patty version has a suggested price of $3.99 and 640 calories.

The applewood smoked bacon cooked in the stores will get the spotlight, but it also features a new bun and cooking procedures designed to produce a juicer, tastier patty.

The move is significant because Wendy’s has long positioned its products as higher- quality fast food, but the competition has heated up.

“There’s been a lot of folks talking about hamburgers out there,” said Ken Calwell, Wendy’s chief marketing officer. “We haven’t talked about our premium hamburgers for a very long time at Wendy’s. ... We believe there’s a lot of opportunity out there when we feature what we do best.”

The past year has seen a slew of “better burger” entrants. A host of chains, ranging from Five Guys Burgers & Fries to Smashburger, have been adding units.

Traditional burger chains also have added premium items. McDonald’s has been pushing its Angus burgers.

The Bacon Deluxe is a major product launch for the new Wendy’s management team, said Scott Hume, editor of BurgerBusiness.com, a Web site that tracks the burger industry. Wendy’s, based in Dublin, Ohio, merged last year with Atlanta-based Arby’s to create the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group.

Wendy’s needs a burger to get the attention of customers and show Wall Street investors the brand has new life, Hume said.

“For 40 years, they’ve been saying ‘We’re better; we’re fresh; we’re not frozen,’ ” Hume said. “And that’s gotten them some traction, but there’s a whole new group of competitors. ... Wendy’s needs to get back in the burger game.”

Wendy’s is confident the Bacon Deluxe will do well with customers, Calwell said.

In addition to the new ingredients, Wendy’s also has worked on new cooking procedures.

Calwell declined to give details, citing “confidentiality reasons.”

“I can just say it’s a process with the grills themselves,” Calwell said. “It’s recalibrating the grills to allow for the hamburger to be cooked at an optimal time and temperature each time.”

The new buns and cooking procedures also should help the broader line of Wendy’s burgers. The 99-cent line of burgers will keep their current bun, but other premium burgers will feature the new bun.

The existing Baconator burger will get an upgrade with the thicker, cooked-from-scratch bacon.

Baconator will have three strips on a single, six strips on a double and nine strips on a triple. Unlike Bacon Deluxe, it doesn’t have lettuce and tomato.

“The Baconator, from a balance perspective, you get even more bacon flavor because you don’t have the lettuce and tomato to mild it out,” Calwell said.

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