ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Wendy’s is poised to overtake Burger King for the No. 2 spot in fast-food breakfast sales, reports CNBC. Breakfast sales made up roughly 8% of Wendy’s U.S. sales by the fourth quarter of 2021, and the company’s breakfast sales grew about 25% in 2021.
Wendy’s expects its breakfast sales to reach 20% of its total sales this year, which would make it the No. 2 burger chain in the breakfast category.
“For us, right now, we’re very solidly and very quickly established as the No. 3, but we’re only about a share point behind Burger King,” Wendy’s U.S. President Kurt Kane said in an interview. “Our first job is to leave them behind, which we’re very confident that we’re going to be able to do here in the not-too-distant future.”
Burger King saw only a 1.8% increase in U.S. same-store sales in the fourth quarter, trailing both McDonald’s and Wendy’s metrics for their home markets.
Wendy’s launched its breakfast menu two years ago, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Even though it wasn’t the way that we would’ve drawn up the playbook, it may have actually helped us because it gave us the opportunity to really build it in a steady way,” Kane said.
The pandemic shifted the breakfast daypart, and before the pandemic, Wendy’s thought that its busiest times would be from 7 to 9 a.m. as consumers went to work. Instead, the company saw its longest breakfast lines from 8 to 9 a.m.
The breakfast daypart is shifting back, however, to pre-pandemic times. From September to November 2021, online and in-person traffic to restaurants during breakfast hours rose 11%, compared with a 10% decline in the year-ago period, according to The NPD Group.
CNBC reports that Wendy’s is using aggressive promotions to capture the early morning customers once again. From November to mid-December, it sold its egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches—with a choice of sausage or bacon—for just $1. Kane said to expect similar deals in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Panera Bread is launching chicken sandwiches starting March 30, according to a news release. The “Chef’s Chicken Sandwiches” will be available in a signature or spicy version, starting at $10.99.
“With Panera’s new Chef’s Chicken Sandwiches, we’re launching an exciting new platform, that will delight our guests. This is no ordinary chicken sandwich,” said Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer, Panera Bread. “This is for a guest looking for a delicious, chef-crafted, gourmet-level sandwich, freshly prepared and made with clean ingredients in true Panera fashion. This will shatter the expectations of what a chicken sandwich should taste like, and we think they’re worth every bite and every penny.”
Read more about the "Chicken Sandwich Wars" and how convenience retailers are “Reawakening the Morning Daypart” in the NACS Magazine.