We recently analyzed the performance of a restaurant initiative that rolled out during COVID-19: Wendy's breakfast.
Although they had the unfortunate timing of launching just as the pandemic was taking hold in the U.S., Wendy's has made the best of a bad situation.
The breakfast market has declined during COVID overall (a casualty of fewer work commute occasions), but Wendy’s has gained massive market share during the 5am-11am Daypart.
They saw an +80% YoY increase in share of Breakfast visits to the Limited Service Restaurant (LSR) market in March, and has largely retained that growth, now holding a +50% YoY increase as of August.
While their momentum has been impressive, Wendy's still has room to grow at breakfast when compared to its QSR peers like McDonald's and Chick-fil-A.
Below we show visit share for several QSR brands during Breakfast, indexed against the whole day. Which brands get so much Breakfast traffic that it beats their average level of traffic during the whole day?
McDonald's, for example, over-indexed on Breakfast last year, and even more so during COVID-19. Taco Bell, on the other hand, under-indexes on Breakfast.
Wendy's still under-indexes on Breakfast, but they saw a >60% relative lift compared to last year - an undeniable victory for this initiative.
What types of consumers are gravitating toward Wendy's Breakfast?
Wendy's has been gaining market share across consumer demographics, though more so with segments that tend to be value-centric and convenience-oriented as opposed to quality, atmosphere or service-oriented.
Below we've plotted Breakfast share gains by Sense360 Segment. These segments are behaviorally-based with attitudinal data appended; we use visit data and K-means clustering to group consumers into segments based on where they go, and then we survey them to append things like decisions drivers, lifestyle choices, and other qualitative insights.
What we found is that Wendy's saw the biggest Breakfast share gains among Busy Budgeters, Hardworking Homebodies, and Social Suburbanites. These segments have several factors in common - they tend to be heavy QSR users, they are segments that McDonald's performs well with, and they focus on value and convenience.
Other segments like Affluent Adopters, Millenial Movers, and Urban Influencers still increased their Breakfast visits to Wendy's, but to a lesser degree. These consumer segments are ones that Starbucks performs well with - they care more about things like food quality, restaurant atmosphere, and level of service.
Overall, Wendy's has been one of the rare COVID-19 success stories in the restaurant industry. In a daypart that has been dominated by McDonald's for a long time, Wendy's breakfast is presenting itself as a worthy contender with a promising growth trend.
Interested in seeing more insights like these?
This analysis came from Sense360's COVID-19 Research series. We've been conducting free consumer insights research since March, to help our friends and partners in the food industry navigate these volatile times. All of our decks are available for download here, free of charge.
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