Food for Thought: Wendy’s Revamping

It was recently announced that Wendy’s is going to be revamping the inside of all of their restaurants.  They are going for a more upscale fast food look.  I’m not a big fan of remodeling, revamping and changing what works.  I’m not saying that change isn’t needed in some environments, because it especially is for anything remotely related to technology.  However, for a fast food restaurant, I don’t see a purpose for it.  I remember my first time walking into a Wendy’s and since then it has never changed (except the menu).  For me, I don’t have many fond memories of Wendy’s to begin with, other than that one time that I was able to get a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger for 99 cents. I don’t walk into a Wendy’s and think “this place looks like my great grandmothers basement”.

If McDonalds ever changed their look too drastically, I would be heartbroken.  One of my greatest child hood memories is when I used to ride on the back of Fry Kids on the merry-go-round at my local McDonalds.

I also have another great memory of my father taking me out of school for a day for some quality bonding time at the Staten Island Zoo and then to pick up a Happy Meal for lunch.  When I received my Happy Meal, I opened the box and saw that I got a Moon Man toy.  I played with that for days. Every now and then I find myself looking it up on Ebay to see if I could pick it up again.

I don’t understand why fast food restaurants are trying to appear as if they are upscale.  I’m not at any time planning on ordering a filet mignon at my local Wendy’s.  Fast food to me is a place where I go to eat at a rapid pace and then I get the hell out of there.  I don’t sit around and ponder the mysteries of the world as I’m sinking my teeth into a Baconator.  I wish Wendy’s would work more on getting all of their menus standardized rather than getting all of their stores to look more modern.  On a side note, do you remember when UPS changed their logo?  It cost them millions of dollars to change their logo from a box look to a more rounded look.  Ridiculous.

Was this change worth millions?

Would the general appearance of a fast food restaurant make you decide yay or nay?

53 comments on “Food for Thought: Wendy’s Revamping

  1. Ryan says:

    Ronald called, he wants his shoes back.

  2. Justin ST says:

    Well said Mitchery. I bet the franchisees are not happy.

  3. Rick says:

    I remember my local Wendy’s had the salad bar (for awhile) and old-school tables with a collage of old newspapers as the tabletops. That Wendy’s burned down in 2003 in a failed attempt to collect insurance money. The new Wendy’s looks just about the same, minus the cool tables. I would trade the stupid flatscreens for a customer-facing coke fountain though – the employees at the Wendy’s around DC are mean as hell and I’m tired of getting grilled for my love of Dr. Pepper.

  4. Lauren G. says:

    But McDonald’s IS changing their look rather drastically. The ones in NY probably represent the extreme- but I can tell you they are UNRECOGNIZABLE.

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2011-05-06-mcdonalds-revamp_n.htm

    • Mike N says:

      I was going to say the same thing — many McD’s in my area have been renovated and are really unrecognizable from the old days.

    • `Raiders757 says:

      We have one of the remodeled versions not far from me near the Christopher Newport University campus. It was remodeled several years ago and looks nothing like a McDonald’s. It’s built where a Hardee’s used to be, and I remember when it was being built, nobody had a clue it was going to be a McD’s until the signs went up.

    • Crysta says:

      We’ve got one of those revamped McDonalds in town. The outside looks silly, and the inside looks like they’re trying too hard to be Starbucks. Personally, I hate it. I’d rather go to the “old” McDonalds.

      I’ve seen some themed McDonalds restaurants that were done well, but they didn’t do away with what made them recognizable either…

    • Justin ST says:

      I love the new McDonald’s. The problem is that the food is horrible. It needs to improve, a lot.

  5. Chefprotoss says:

    Coming out with new spins on the baked potato would bring in more cash than changing the aesthetic of something we can’t eat.

  6. Mikey F Baby says:

    “I don’t have many fond memories of Wendy’s to begin with, other than that one time that I was able to get a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger for 99 cents.”

    AHA! Right on the money.

  7. `Raiders757 says:

    I used to love those old newspaper add tables as a kid, and wish they would bring them back for some odd reason. Anyway, our original Wendy’s recently went through the new upgrade. They pretty much ripped the whole place down and built a completely new modern looking store with a fireplace and widescreen TV’s. The change was actually needed, because the store was over thirty years old and looked dated. It really made no difference for me though, as I only use the drive-thru. I did notice that their normally juicy/greasy burgers were rather dry after the reopening though. No, it wasn’t the new burger that was at fault, but it seems the new equipment was throwing the staff off their game. Now, after a few months, everything is back to normal and the burgers are juicy/greasy once again.

    This store needed the remodeling, as it was one of the oldest in the entire region. I would find it rather silly to do it to many of the other ones near me though. Three of them are barely over ten years old. Really, bringing back the newspaper add tables would be enough of a remodeling for me.

  8. Manavee says:

    I’ve been thinking that if a lot of these places continue to go upscale and try to get closer to a fast casual type of concept that there should be room in the market for a pure value based fast food type place.

    If I was Burger King, I would think long and hard about the need to go “upscale” when there competitors are already trying to do the same thing. That market I suspect will be saturated at some point, if it isn’t already. They might be best served by concentrating on value (a la Subway) rather than quality per se.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

      One of our Burger King’s has the old cheap look and one remodeled to a nice modern place with flatscreen TVs and lounge chairs. I prefer the remodeled one.

  9. Mary says:

    I’m not bothered by the upgrades they’ve done with McDonald’s and Taco Bell. The new looks are cleaner but still colorful. BK and Subway though I’ve preferred the older look. You can hardly noticed the old Subway style (made to resemble the NY underground subway) unless you look really hard at the wallpaper. Same goes with Wendy’s. Their identity has always been about “Old Fashioned Burgers” and getting rid of the Old Fashioned style would be rather conflicting

  10. TheWarden says:

    If I so desired, I would load up GIMP with the “Aliens” meme guy jpg and put “Marketing” at the bottom instead.

  11. Jason says:

    I remember Wendys employees used to clear the tables. That was sort of nice but I would prefer a self serv soda machine.

    • Mitchery says:

      If I want good service anymore at a fast food place, I go to Chick-Fil-A. I get better service there than going to my grandmothers house for breakfast, and my grandma is awesome.

    • Rick says:

      I forgot about that! That was great too

    • George says:

      I’m not sure if this was just in my area, but as a kid, I remember Wendy’s and Burger King having full-time mentally handicapped people there who would clear the tables. Random memory.

  12. scott says:

    They really have to change the appearance of their restaurants if they keep raising their prices.

    People are probably going to be unwilling to pay 9 bucks for a spicy chicken meal at a fast food place, but if they somehow successfully market themselves as something else, maybe people will end up thinking its worth it.

    • Justin ST says:

      I’m telling you, Wendy is running this company down, and it will be a few years before the corporation tells her to hit the door. She’s trying to make Wendy’s into something it isn’t. The food is getting way too overpriced and the decor inside is classic. There’s no need to make it look like Chipotle. What is her deal? Oh yeah, she got rid of the old fries. What was she thinking?

  13. Scrape says:

    This vaires greatly depending on where the restaurant is and who has the franchise. Some owners take much more pride in their stores. You can tell by how clean they are, how well the food is prepared, and even how new the store is. It is good for business. If your store is dirty and run down, you lose business. Period.

    Round here, all the McD’s have been extensively remodeled. One was even torn down and rebuilt 180 degrees from it’s previous layout, and it wasn’t that old. The new interiors are really nice and comfortable. They also make the place actually function better. Free wi-fi, free refills, dim lighting, high-quality finish materials, high-top tables for the McCafe, an indoor redbox, and a few of the sauces (bbq, s&s, tartar, ketchup) available to self-serve via pump. Fantastic. I go to this store over any other in the area. I stopped at one recently that hadn’t had a remodel, and it was like a different restaurant, altogether.

    Wendy’s here has been doing some remodels, with most of the work being on the ouside. Frankly, they look cheap by using bottom of the barrel fake stone materials and not doing enough work to make the old restaurant look architecturally correct. On the inside, they are just recarpeting with a similar style, and sometimes putting in soda machines for customers to fill/refill. Some have them, some don’t. Wendy’s needs some MAJOR work. Most are very old and are falling apart, and some are downright filthy. They have no real ‘style’ to speak of (even the brand new one down the street has an interior out of the ’90s), and are probably the least comfortable of the big three quick service chains. The bar has been raised; the public is demanding more and more these days. We have already seen this with the variety and quality of the food getting much better, and some chains (McDs, Arbys) have really invested in making their restaurants more appealing as a place to sit and have a meal with the family, not to just shove a burger down your throat on a 30 year old plastic bench.

    Besides further work on their food, Wendys needs to lay down the law with their franchisees if they are to succeed. All restaurants will have soda machines out front for refills. Management will have consitency trainaing to ensure the product is the same coast to coast. Restaurants will be remodeled as needed, and with an upgraded and quality design; Not the cheap crap they are doing now which will need redoing in 5 years. And bring back the classic $.99 value menu. They are by far the most expensive chain, and that is hurting sales.

    • Raiders757 says:

      You reminded me. Our newly rebuilt Wendy’s has the new Freestyle Coke dispensers, so they are indeed moving soda refills out front for the customer to use themselves.

    • George says:

      I agree with the dollar menu needing to come back. I used to have lunch at Wendy’s at least once every couple weeks, and now I will maybe go through the drive thru for a quick bite every couple months. I’ve always eaten off the value menu there, and my standard order used to be something like $5.50. A couple years ago now(a few months before they decided to change the fries), I went and ordered my standard order, and it ended up being like $8.75.

      Now, I wouldn’t have minded if they raised prices on each item like $.20 or something, because inflation happens. But this was an abrupt massive change of basically everything on the dollar menu. It definitely stopped me from eating there(maybe a good thing for my health, though).

  14. Steven says:

    Marketing sells. The building and decor is as much a part of that as anything else. There are 2 Wendys in close proximity to me. One is an old building with a single drive thru window. The other is a modern building with a double window and is very well lit at night. I very rarely go to the older building. I feel better about the new one in many ways. Does that actually affect the food any? Probably not but nonetheless as a customer it matters. Similarly there are 2 Taco Bells close to me. One has an order verification screen in the drive thru. The other does not. Guess which one I go to?

    • Mitchery says:

      I wouldn’t classify enhancing the customer experience as marketing. There are a lot of the older fast food chains that are being brought up to date with technology and are also being updated for means of quicker service. I’m personally fine with those changes and embrace them. It is when a company goes for years and years branding themselves in a certain light and then all of a sudden decide to take that name in a different direction is when I have a problem with it.

      • rondoman says:

        Umm, Wendys has been moving in this direction with their food for years and years now, so now they are updating the decor to match.

        Huge fan of GG, but the article is nonsense.

    • Justin ST says:

      Not really. It doesn’t. Location matters the most for any business. Maintenance and age don’t if you like the food, unless there are serious problems with the place, like Restaurant Impossible bad. There are all sorts of dumps that survive. If the location and the convenience of going to the place are good, appearance matters little.

  15. JF says:

    While I agree branding is a huge part of any company’s success, I still think it all boils down to the products you offer. I do like Wendy’s, but don’t think they are great. If I want FF, I’d take Carls Jr. over anyone else (just my opinion).

    Personally, I think making a better product line is a much better investment in money than the astethics. No remodeling of Wendy’s (or anyone else) would draw me to their business. It’s all about the products / service you provide.

    Maybe this will work, maybe not, but I was so disappointed with the whole Hot and Juicy line. Just go back to the basics. What you do well and what made you money (famous) in the first place.

    You could serve out of a cardboard box, but if the food and service meets my expectations, I don’t care about your looks.

  16. Sascha says:

    There’s a lot of talk about Wendy’s being “run into the ground”, so to speak, but aren’t they on the verge, if they haven’t already, of moving ahead of Burger King?

    Am I the only one who wants to see the return of the Superbar? With a Coke Freestyle next to it.

    • ERock says:

      They are ahead of BK. But if Wendy’s being run into the ground, Burger King by comparison has been run into the erupting volcano pit. Currently the lowest quality product, most run down stores, most slow and surly employees, and not even good prices for what you get.

  17. Zack says:

    As a foodie who secretly loves his fast food, I’m a big fan of GrubGrade, but I just can’t agree with the gist of this article. Namely, I think the Wendy’s people are doing a pretty good job with their turnaround, and these new looks are consistent with that.

    Wendy’s had to do something; they were losing money on the average ticket, losing consumers to upscale upstarts and just losing mindshare in the burger business.

    They’ve managed to do a few things very well:
    • They’ve definitely improved on food quality. People complain about the H&J burgers, and they didn’t seem that much better on paper, but in the store they definitely taste like an improvement, while even the value menu stuff I’ve gotten tastes a lot better then the competition (For example, Wendy’s has the best chicken wrap IMO).
    • At least around me, they’ve definitely worked on the customer service. I remember going to my local Wendy’s and getting unfriendly looks for bothering to order and receiving my food pretty much thrown at my through the drive through window.
    • They’re getting rid of the cheap feel. Getting rid of the Arby’s weight was a huge load on that front (I know Arby’s has its fans here on GG but I’m not one of them and all the ones around me are pretty lame)

    Most importantly, I think they’ve really done good job of figuring out what their niche is in the fast food industry. They knew they were getting beaten by the newer burger places (Smash,5 Guys) but realized there was some folks who didn’t want to always deal with the time/calorie-consuming process at these new upscale chains, while also realizing that they’re never gonna beat McDonalds on value / ubiquity, and I’d say the same about BK but they just did beat them.

    It’s a fierce market though, and they’ve definitely got competition; a lot of people mentioning Carls here and I’d throw JITB in the mix. For comparison’s sake, both of those places have had remodels and it’s probably time for Wendy’s to do the same. It seems like the GrubGrade folks aren’t a huge fan of the change (and also seem to have consistency issues with their local franchisee), but IMO it’s needed. The Wendy’s around me have looked the same since the mid 90s, and it’s really just not appealing anymore.x

  18. Mark Reed says:

    That’s not a “Moon Man.” That’s “Mac Tonight.” Try looking on Youtube to see if some of the old Mac Tonight commercials are there.

    As I recall this was a promotion to boost the sales of Big Macs at dinnertime.

  19. Lindsay says:

    Boo. I hate when they mess with my childhood nostalgia.

  20. Someone says:

    Wendy’s may be expensive, but it feels like you’re actually getting something. I think BK is in far more trouble.

  21. Brad says:

    What Wendy’s really needs to do is get some revamping and standardizing of their menu prices, especially when it comes to their value menu. Once they do that, they can go hog-wild with the look of the place and I wouldn’t care.

    • JF says:

      It wasn’t until a few months ago on another Wendy’s thread that I saw people commenting about their “My 99″ was not really 99 in all markets. I totally agree with this, particularly if you are doing national commercials. You need to standardize on your pricing, otherwise don’t run them in markets where the don’t apply.

      And don’t use tiny words that are on the TV for 2 seconds for your disclaimer.

  22. CulinaryZerg says:

    Wendy’s is in need of a makeover, no question. The new McDonald’s are impressive and definitely broaden the customer base they draw.

    Problem is, Wendy needs to broaden it’s customer base with more than just restaurant appearance–it needs to work on its food. McDonalds did just that in the past decade. It’s well established that they captured the female (as a slightly more healthier/upscale) market through offerings like premium salads, yogurts, fruit & oatmeal, McCafe, more chicken options, healthy happy meals etc. McDonald’s new decor perfectly matches their food rebranding.

    Wendy’s has gone in an opposite direction. They used to have speciality sandwiches (pita sandwhiches, mushroom melts) and was the favorite fastfood stop of my lady friends. But in the last decade, Wendys has moved markedly in a Burger-King like direction and are all about Baconators, Triple-Decker burgers, and Salty Skin-on Fries. Yeah, they probably got a temporary sales uptick from appealing to the greasy junk food craver (which includes me), but longer terms it’s turned off its core customers. They might as well sell tacos and cheese fries next (tasty but horridly wrong for it’s brand). Their dirty, dingy, franchise restaurants just reinforce this experience.

    For Wendy’s to win back it’s old customer segments (which have migrated to McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, and fast casual), it needs to seriously class up it’s food in addition to its restaurants.

  23. Justin says:

    I work for a company the delivers the food to Wendys. One of my stores is currently closed due to this new remodeling. While I must say the new design ( pictures I have seen at least ) looks good, I’m not sure why they are doing this. Wendys sales as a whole are in the toilet.Will a new design really help that? I’d focus more on the food and menu if I were corporate. The drop in sales should be a cause for concern considering all the advertising they have been doing on TV over the last year. All you see on TV anymore are the new “thick and juicy” burger and cod fish sandwich commercials

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