You might be wondering how Wendy’s national restaurant chain got so expensive.
It’s always been seen as one of the better chain restaurants when you’re shopping for fast food, but the prices seem to have spiked over the last several years.
With more than 6,500 locations in operation today, let’s see if we can find out why Wendy’s food prices are on the rise.
Why Is Wendy’s So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
It’s an interesting question, but first, some background.
Dave Thomas founded the chain restaurant in Ohio on November 15, 1969.
Dave was the company’s face for many company advertisements right until his death in January of 2002.
His goal in starting the chain was to provide families with an inexpensive meal with quality, fresh ingredients.
Wendy’s uses this mindset to make many of its business decisions today.
Wendy’s chose to favor quality over the number of locations it would have.
This driving factor is a common thread through all of our reasons for Wendy’s higher prices.
1. Claims Of Higher Quality Ingredients
It’s long been known among food connoisseurs that higher-quality food ingredients have more decadent flavors.
Food ingredients are considered high in quality when they are fresh, natural, and unprocessed—a stark contrast from the heavily processed ingredients found at many other fast-food chains.
The beef at Wendy’s is 100% pure ground chuck with no fillers.
Similar things can be said for their poultry choices: it’s all white meat served without skin or additives.
The fact that Wendy’s has this type of meat helps explain why some people notice a premium on the meal’s final price.
Higher prices are not just because Wendy’s wants to take more money from its customers.
Higher-quality ingredients come at a premium price.
For example, anyone who’s ever shopped for high-quality, genuinely organic food products will notice larger sticker prices for the organic goods than their more processed counterparts.
The team at Wendy’s leverages this in their menu choices, adding to the overall secret that plays into the various flavors Wendy’s offers.
Higher-quality ingredients aren’t only about being fresh but also about how they are grown and handled throughout the food life cycle.
For example, beef and chicken are sourced from a network of ranchers and farmers who follow sustainable, responsible, and traceable growing and harvesting methodologies.
Each rancher or farmer pledges to follow or institute a system where the food animals are cared for in an ethical and caring manner.
The ranchers and farmers follow this quality care with optimal animal feed and free-range feeding techniques.
In addition, they record the animals’ life events, veterinary care, food regimen, and more in ways that can be inspected and validated at any time by third-party verifiers.
Accordingly, vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible, with only the highest-quality pieces available for bulk purchase.
These vegetables are hand-chopped each day at all of Wendy’s locations.
Potatoes are always baked in an oven and never in a microwave.
Sourcing, caring for, and preparing the ingredients with an eye for quality from the farm to the table allows Wendy’s to charge more for their products.
2. Sustainable Packaging
More and more fast-food chains are becoming aware of their sustainability habits.
Many chains are now complying with state or city regulations that ban plastic packaging, plastic straws, and other potentially wasteful items.
Wendy’s, for example, now offers recycled paper straws as an alternative to plastic ones.
The company has even created regional marketing campaigns around reducing waste.
This campaign includes items like recycling bins at its stores and encouraging customers to bring cloth bags when dining in or ordering take-out food.
These are all great leaps forward from what other chains have done in recent years, but it’s still not enough to make up for some of the higher prices charged by Wendy’s compared to competitors like Burger King or McDonald’s.
As with any business, Wendy’s is keen on saving money where it can.
What this means for customers is that to produce sustainable packaging and still stay afloat as a company, prices on other things will be higher than average.
Some of these costs are passed onto the customer, while others—like those associated with sourcing different ingredients or making plastic replacements—keep being absorbed by Wendy’s.
3. Gourmet Food Combinations
The fast-food giant is known for its hamburgers, and while people may be skeptical at first about trying a new ingredient or bun type when ordering from Wendy’s, customers have sworn by it over time.
The experimentation with different options refusal to conform to one set idea of what a “hamburger” should look like are factors in why these menu items cost more than others offered by competitors such as Burger King or McDonald’s.
Wendy’s likes to experiment and play with different bun types and toppings for its burgers and chicken sandwiches over the course of any given calendar year.
Customers may find whole wheat offerings in addition to brioche buns or even pretzel buns to spice up their menu choices.
Unique toppings can include fried onions, sauteed mushrooms, or even creamy fresh-cut avocado.
When you combine new ingredients in an exciting way with new sauces, you essentially have a hamburger with a new attitude.
Wendy’s seems to change their menu choices based on the yearly seasons.
This practice allows Wendy’s consumers to get used to whatever the current menu offerings are while still experiencing new, flavorful, and satisfying experiences.
4. Higher Wages For Employees
Many new state legislatures in the United States have mandated higher minimum wage standards.
Some states voted to nearly double their minimum wage requirements compared to the amounts the previous year and don’t offer business owners the ability to adjust incrementally towards a future deadline.
Other states have made the $15 mark the benchmark of minimum wage.
Paying out increased salaries in various states in one or two fiscal years takes a bite out of a business’s bottom line.
Many fast-food chain restaurants have adapted to increased costs by laying off employees, reducing current hours, and providing kiosks for customers to place their orders rather than using a person behind the counter.
Other ways these increased payroll costs are dealt with include charging customers for additional condiments and providing fewer napkins with meals served through the drive-through.
In some places, Wendy’s may have followed suit but has done its best to reduce the impact on their employees.
Wendy’s is happy to pay newly required salary increases in the applicable states as they value their employees and attempt to keep everything very family-friendly.
Some of these higher-wage costs are absorbed by Wendy’s, and some are passed along to the customer.
5. Research And Development
Although Wendy’s is always seeking to make better food at fair prices, most of their research and development efforts focus on future sustainability, growth, and inventing new ways to change how they serve their customers.
This habit has lasted as long as they’ve been in business.
In the 1970s, this willingness to think outside of the box led Wendy’s to experiment with customers driving around the building and getting their orders through a window on the side of the building.
Thus, the drive-through was born.
The drive-through and other ideas come from being open enough to experiment with different methods that might work for their customers and their business outside of what their competitors might be doing.
With Wendy’s putting this much thought and attention to their customers and their business, it only serves to increase the chain’s reputation as a higher-quality establishment.
Even though Wendy’s doesn’t have as many locations as McDonald’s or Burger King, customers have come to trust that Wendy’s cares more about them than their competition.
Customers are then willing to spend a little more on their food choices.
6. More Meat On The Sandwiches
Wendy’s signature hamburger look involves offering a square patty instead of a circular one.
Dave, the owner, originally touted there was no reason to cut corners off the meat this way.
By offering a square patty instead of a circular one, it put Wendy’s in the position of providing more meat on their burgers.
In 1984, the “Where’s the Beef“ commercials aired for the first time.
This famous ad evolved over the years, making fun of different fast-food chains that offered smaller round patties as part of Wendy’s positioning that their chain provided more meat, hands down.
Today, Wendy’s and other competitors offer thicker patties or the ability to stack one or two extra patties on top of the original one to make different burger offerings.
When it comes to chicken sandwiches, many customers still swear that a Wendy’s chicken sandwich is always thicker than McDonald’s or a Burger King one and can be verified through a simple visual side-by-side comparison.
We’re pretty sure that can vary by the chicken in question.
Either way, it upholds Dave’s original premise that Wendy’s offers more meat on their sandwiches as a matter of practice rather than a new and improved offering to their customers.
7. Customers Are Comfortable Paying More
Other fast-food restaurants came along and began introducing specialty burgers and charging more for them.
Over time, this began changing how much customers were willing to spend on something slightly different.
Eventually, these types of prices were adopted by the standard fast-food chains.
Wendy’s kept pace with these changes by charging slightly more for a hamburger that may not be the same as what their competitors offer.
It’s just another way of saying, “It was worth paying a little extra to get something more gourmet than you could have made yourself at home.”
While some customers want something different, others don’t mind shelling out an extra couple of bucks when they know they’re getting more.
Wendy’s knows its customers well.
They’re comfortable with the idea that people are willing to pay premium prices for something like this, even if it doesn’t look or taste different from what other competitors offer on paper.
8. Fresh, Never Frozen Mantra
As Wendy’s sources their food from local farmers whenever possible, all of Wendy’s ingredients are delivered via refrigerated truck on time, so they never have to be frozen.
Wendy’s prides itself on this “fresh, never frozen” mantra.
If you think about it, you can’t find anyone saying they remember tasting any freezer burn of any kind or anything that even tastes like a freezer in their meals.
Some of Wendy’s competitors are known for using frozen meat patties or frozen vegetables in their prepared foods.
Remember that not all frozen foods are the same.
For example, frozen vegetables often have a reduced water content, making some dishes easier to prepare.
However, if a vegetable or meat isn’t frozen pretty much immediately after it’s harvested or prepared, nutrients and flavor will eventually be lost.
Wendy’s ingredients are prepared freshly and by hand every day at each establishment.
Wendy’s doesn’t even use pre-shredded bagged lettuce.
Instead, they hand tear or chop heads of romaine lettuce.
This habit adds to the quality and freshness that goes into the meals.
9. Limited Menu With Upscale Appeal
Wendy’s sticks to what they’re good at, such as hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, some salads, and their time-tested Frosty.
As a restaurant chain, they’ve never given the customer more than two or three options for each food category, keeping it quick and straightforward for the customer to decide.
Over time, Wendy’s began playing with bun choices, burger and sandwich toppings and flavors, and deal prices.
This combination gives the customer a feel that Wendy’s is catering to what they want but dressed up just a bit better than what many customers can pull off at home.
Eating out then becomes attractive.
10. Delivery Fees
Wendy’s offers many of its menu items for delivery.
They charge a little extra for the service to cover their delivery costs, but it’s convenient and eliminates some tough decisions before you even arrive at your home or office.
With more people staying home, it’s one more way Wendy’s can get its product offerings directly to their customers.
The delivery fees vary by state and are then included in the overall totals with tax and other surcharges.
These additional fees raise the overall price of Wendy’s products.
How You Can Save Money At Wendy’s
Don’t worry if you’re pinching pennies.
There is always a way to save some money at establishments like this.
If you want to save some cash at Wendy’s, try these helpful tips.
- Pick out the items you’re craving at that moment. If you think you might still want more to eat after that, try ordering one size up since you’ll only be buying one thing.
- Order a side dish only, like fries or onion rings. Some people only order an apple dipper as a healthier alternative to ice cream.
- Order a child’s menu meal. You’ll get smaller portions but will still get a taste of everything you were craving.
- Swipe coupons from weekly newspaper inserts or junk mail you’ve received. Usually, you can get a buy-one-get-one-free deal or at least a savings off of a value meal.
- Ask Wendy’s if they have any coupon deals or specials available directly from them. Wendy’s will sometimes offer a free kids’ Frosty with the purchase of any sandwich if you ask for it in advance.
- Order online and skip picking up your food at the restaurant to save on gas. Any delivery surcharge might be offset by special offers that are only available when ordering ahead of time online or in an app instead of in-store.
- Try ordering just the sandwich or salad rather than making it a value meal. Ordering a sandwich or salad as a stand-alone item also helps reduce your calorie intake if you are watching your weight.
- Shop for the unadvertised sales when you arrive at the drive-through. The current deals will be posted on the drive-through menu but are not always advertised in the paper ads or online coupons.
- Shop from the value menu only. You can often get a combination of two or more items that will satisfy your cravings and fill you up.
The Wendy’s menu is limited, but the quality of each food item and how it’s prepared makes up for it.
The freshness of ingredients at every chain location ensures that you’ll get a better tasting meal than if you were to attempt to cook the same item yourself or go somewhere else.
Purchasing quality fast food, like Wendy’s, saves time cooking at home, which may be more of a priority than saving money.
It’s helpful to know that Wendy’s has its customers’ backs by providing flexible delivery options, regular sales, and more ways to save on their prices by mixing and matching their menu.