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Where’s the beef? It’s with the Wendy’s CEO who thinks customers are idiots
wendys menu
Wendy’s, which has ditched the slogan “Old-Fashioned Hamburgers”, is getting ready to test getting rid of old-fashioned menu boards with stable prices in favor of digital boards to allow “dynamic pricing” that operates on the same general concept of surge pricing by charging less when business is slow.

Wendy’s once got America hung up on the phrase, “where’s the beef?”

Now the fast food joint’s CEO wants to know “what’s the beef?”

It’s simple.

Stop treating customers like they’re dolts.

People will tolerate price increases and shrinking portions, to a degree.

But what most people don’t appreciate is being lied to.

And we’re not talking about inferred claims that you need magnifying glasses to see where the competition’s burger is buried between two buns and covered by lettuce.

This, of course, is in reference to Wendy’s stepping into it with what their CEO Kirk Tanner shared with stock analysts regarding the company’s intention to switch to digital menus and test dynamic pricing.

Social media blew up when word got out Wendy’s was toying with surge pricing.

Tanner acted aghast that people interchanged “dynamic pricing” with “surge pricing.”

Instead of walking it back, he put a spin on it.

Tanner, apparently said with a straight face, that people at busier times would not be paying more.

Then he elaborated people at slower times could be paying less.

Sorry, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

If you are pursuing a strategy that offers “discounts” during slower periods of the day, then your “regular” prices are essentially surge prices.

It’s just a different way of going about reaching the same goal.

The digital menus play well into the sleight of hand Tanner is employing in a PR hustle.

Unless you take a photo every time you visit a Wendy’s, you are never going to know if they are inching up prices a penny at a time.

Better yet — at least for Wendy’s bottom line — they can lull customers into thinking they are not subsidizing lower prices at slower times by paying regular prices when it isn’t slow.

Sounds suspiciously like surge pricing.

And let’s be honest.

Wendy’s is not doing the digital menu bit and dynamic pricing to improve the bottom line of their customers.

It is part of Wendy’s strategy to beef up their bottom line.

Tanner is not Mother Teresa feeding the poor.

He is CEO of a for-profit venture that needs to keep hedge fund investors satisfied so they keep coming back to buy more shares.

No one is buying his altruistic sounding mumbo jumbo designed to deflate the uproar over a fast food joint to adopt Disneyland style tactics to put squeeze even more out of “guests.”

The switch to two-tier pricing that can — thanks to easy-to-change digital menus — morph into spinning the roulette wheel every time you step up to the counter is surge pricing by definition.

You will be paying more for menu items at “full price” when they are busy as they will have no incentive to lower prices.

And you will pay lower prices on “select items” when they determine things are too slow.

Again, if paying less at times when business is slow and paying full freight when it isn’t slow doesn’t do the same thing as surge pricing, then you can order a baked potato anytime of the day at Wendy’s and actually have a good chance of getting one.

Oops, maybe Tanner doesn’t want to go there.

Wendy’s is notorious for not having baked potatoes available even though it is a prominent menu item.

The odds of any being available — especially on weekends — is easily less than 50 percent.

Yes, they take a while to bake.

And, yes, if you misjudge the demand, you can have a lot of baked potatoes left at the end of the night.

But if your goal is to get customers to keep coming back and paying the prices you post, as CEO you might want to make sure some of your offerings aren’t hit and miss.

The question Tanner should be asking is “where is the baked potato?”

Or is having a consistent menu something he doesn’t believe is necessary for a fast food company that spends millions on advertising to get you in the door?

Tanner might want to focus on quality just a little bit more.

But when the fast food chain is now run by a CEO who is more worried about monkeying with prices throughout the day instead of focusing on efforts to keep customers convinced to keep coming back when prices are raised in the normal course of economic events, it should make investors pause.

Not saying Dave Thomas wasn’t a shrewd businessman, but it’s hard to picture him believing the best way to get people to come through the doors to part with their hard-earned money is via dynamic pricing made possible with digital menus.

What’s next from the CEO’s office to appease investors?

Perhaps he can follow Great Wolf’s lead in Manteca and start charging $15 for the privilege of parking in the parking lot for more than 30 minutes.

That should have stock analysts that likely wouldn’t eat in a Wendy’s, unless they were paid to do so, salivating and giving “WEN” stock a must buy rating.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at