Wendy’s has replaced its popular Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger with its latest limited-time offer, the Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche, despite the latter’s sales-driving performance during the third quarter.

Brand spokesman Denny Lynch said the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger ended its run as a limited-time offer in keeping with Wendy’s marketing calendar, which already allowed for one extension for the sandwich when demand and social-media buzz for the item lived up to hype from industry observers.

“Our marketing plans are laid out months in advance, and we know what we’ve got on the docket for other menu items,” Lynch said. “You weigh all those factors. Any time you decide to extend a promotion, you weight that against what’s in the pipeline and what consumer sentiment is, and it’s more art than science.”

The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger rolled out nationwide in July as a summer limited-time offering, which was extended through the fall. The sandwich had performed so well in test marketing that one securities analyst, Mark Kalinowski of Janney Capital Markets, predicted that the item could lift Wendy’s third-quarter same-store sales between 3 percent and 5 percent.

The Dublin, Ohio-based chain’s domestic same-store sales rose 3.2 percent at company-owned locations and 3.1 percent at franchised units in the Sept. 29-ended third quarter. Officials gave much of the credit to the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, which stayed on the menu for five months, even when Wendy’s switched its advertising campaigns to promote the return of Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwiches in August and the Pretzel Pub Chicken sandwich in October.

With its marketing now focused on the Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche, Wendy’s is continuing a previously stated strategy to use premium sandwiches to attempt what chief executive Emil Brolick has called its “A Cut Above” positioning in quick service. Part of that strategy, he had said during previous presentations to investors, would involve sandwiches made with more upscale bread choices that a customer might find at fast-casual restaurants.

As menu trends expert Nancy Kruse has noted, chains in all segments, such as Arby’s, Jason’s Deli or Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, have sourced and highlighted upscale types of bread for new and limited-time sandwiches this year.

Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch said the more upscale buns used this year at Wendy’s have gained the attention of consumers and the press, but added that new condiments and toppings should not be overlooked.

“We’re not just relying on the new breads, but nobody’s denying that that’s the hook,” Lynch said. “Everything on these sandwiches was of a higher quality, not just the bread. We were using spring mix instead of iceberg lettuce, and there was Muenster cheese and Asiago cheese on these sandwiches.”

The latest Bacon Portabella Melt limited-time offer includes a quarter-pound beef patty, two slices of American cheese, mushrooms and a melted-Cheddar sauce, all on a new brioche bun.

While Lynch would not divulge exactly how upscale buns and toppings might appear in new products next year, he said “higher-quality ingredients across the board [would remain] a strategy and a focus as we move forward.”

Wendy’s operates or franchises more than 6,500 restaurants in the United States and 28 foreign markets.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN