We at Nation’s Restaurant News (well, mostly Mark Brandau) have reported the hell out of Wendy's new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. Mark wrote that it’s being rolled out nationally and that at least one analyst is bullish about it. I included it in my biweekly Menu Tracker.
Basically, we have it covered.
But Wendy's asked us if we wanted to interview former 98 Degrees lead singer, solo artist and reality TV star Nick Lachey, who would be singing tweets expressing affection for the new limited-time offering.
I'm just a little too old to feel any connection to the boy bands of the 1990s, and I don’t watch reailty TV, so I didn't have any particular interest in interviewing him. Mark, who covers Wendy’s for us, would be the ideal guy to interview him, but he’s based in Chicago. I asked my colleagues here in New York if anyone wanted to interview Mr. Lachey.
Erin Dostal was game, but she was going to be on vacation. “Otherwise, I would have had to call dibs — 6th Grader me would never have passed this up,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Erin and I share a cubicle wall, but we e-mail nonetheless.
No one else seemed interested, and as senior food editor it is my job to write about new menu items.
Besides, although as a New Yorker I’m supposed to act blasé about meeting celebrities, it’s fun to meet them. It shouldn’t be more fun than meeting anybody else, but it is.
Mark, being our marketing editor and a Millennial, gave me the rundown about what Nick Lachey singing tweets meant.
First, he said, this whole thing reminded him of “Josh Groban sings Kanye tweets,” a thing that happened on Jimmy Kimmel Live in early 2011 to wild acclaim.
“Of course, this also reminds me of Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s using real-time tweets to provide real-time content for its Times Square billboards,” he wrote in an e-mail.
But on top of that, Mark said, Wendy's is probably trying to reach the people who came of age listening to the croonings of Mr. Lachey.
That is to say, Mark and his friends, who also appreciated Josh Groban's musical vocalization of Kanye West’s 140-character philosphoical observations.
“Brilliant,” said Robin Insley, the publicist for SushiSamba, to whom I explained all of this after my interview with my new friend Nick as she introduced me to mixologist Richard Woods of Duck & Waffle in London. Woods was in town to demonstrate for people like me the cocktails he had developed or reworked for SushiSamba’s seven locations.
As senior food editor it’s my job to sample the cocktails of people like Mr. Woods, too.
But back to Nick Lachey and the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger.
It is, indeed, on a pretzel bun — chewier than your normal quick service burger bun — but it also has both a honey mustard sauce and a Cheddar cheese sauce, so that it appeals to people accustomed to having mustard with their pretzels as well as those who like them with cheese, while simultaneously reinforcing the notion that you're having a pretzel burger.
It also comes with sliced red onion, a topping that the burger chain world seems to have decided makes a sandwich seem more premium than any other onion, sliced tomatoes, “thick, center-cut” applewood smoked bacon (applewood being the recognized modifier meaning premium for bacon) and Wendy's new spring mix made of nine different greens, which was tested in Miami, Sacramento and Cleveland before being rolled out nationwide.
The suggested retail price for the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger is $4.69, although in New York it sells for about $6.20 with tax.
The sandwich did astoundingly well in test, Nick Lachey informed me, sounding remarkably like a marketing guy.
“They said it was like a love fest,” he said. So why not turn the enthusiastic tweets into love songs?
“I like to think, what better guy to sing love songs than Nick Lachey?” he said with a smile that showed he was self-aware enough to know that he sounded like an egomaniac.
Lachey, a native of Cincinnati, grew up on Wendy’s, which is based in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Dublin.
“I probably had my first Frosty when I was three or four years old,” he told me, and recently while on tour he sampled his first vanilla Frosty — a relatively new menu item — and his wife and brother (Vanessa Lachey née Minnillo and former 98 Degrees member Drew Lachey) caught him sticking his tongue in it before they could bring him a spoon.
So he’s a fan.
He also said he has enjoyed the challenge of composing love songs from someone else’s lyrics.
“It’s different, but it’s fun,” he said, noting that love songs run the risk of all sounding the same.
Lachey was first presented with the tweets with the hashtag #pretzellovesongs last week — the sandwich’s nationwide rollout began on July 4 — and he’s been using them to compose since then.
He’s kept each tweet intact, using one for the verse, one for the pre-chorus, and one for the chorus.
Here’s a video of Nick Lachey, accompanied by Paul Thomas Duncan, singing the chorus during the soundcheck for a performance he gave last night: “@Wendys Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger/It’s a life changer/you guys/Y’all it’s like everything glorious in one sandwich #isthisreallife”
He really does have a nice voice, doesn’t he?
Lachey will be releasing a video here soon, and he’ll be followed by other singing celebrities, so stay tuned.
He said his actual video will be different from last night’s song.
“I'm holding the heavy artillery for the first video,” he said.
July 10, 2013 This story has been updated with the name of Nick Lachey’s accompanyist.