Wendy's: Son of Baconator sandwich aimed at smaller appetites

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Wendy’s latest sandwich promotion, Son of Baconator, reveals a subtle change in marketing strategy aimed at incurring incremental traffic, and that likely would not repeat the negative mix shift seen in its last such promotion, the “W” cheeseburger.

Launched last week, Son of Baconator is a smaller version of the 6,500-unit chain’s Baconator sandwich. While the patriarch of the Baconator family has two quarter-pound beef patties and six strips of bacon, the junior version has two patties that add up to a quarter-pound of beef and four strips of bacon.

Despite being the newer product, Son of Baconator does not get top billing in Wendy’s latest commercial, but rather is tacked on at the end of a spot promoting the full-size Baconator. The commercial implores the viewer to “decide how big you want to go,” which the brand says is indicative of Son of Baconator’s purpose of catering to people looking for smaller portions, not necessarily smaller prices.

“The Baconator is a big sandwich for a big appetite,” said Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch. “Not everybody has that big an appetite, so the size of Son of Baconator will appeal to not necessarily distinct audiences, but you get the point. One is for big appetites, and one is for moderate appetites.”

Much of Wendy’s “disappointing” 0.8-percent increase in first-quarter same-store sales resulted from a sales mix shift toward its “W” cheeseburger, which was promoted for a price of $2.99 and ended up stealing more transaction from Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Cheeseburger than encouraging trade-up from the My 99-cent Value Menu. Brand officials said repeatedly after reporting those quarterly results that heavy users of the value menu are highly unlikely to be persuaded to leave those value items.

The company has since decided to discontinue the “W” and reconfigure the value menu. Officials are upbeat that new promotions like Baconator and Son of Baconator, as well as seasonal salads, can combine with its “Image Activation” remodel program to drive improved same-store sales growth over the longer term. The company expects to report a 3-percent increase in same-store sales when it releases its second-quarter earnings next month.

A key difference with Son of Baconator is that it is intended to address a need relating to appetite, not price, Lynch said.

“We also introduced the ‘W’ at a discounted price, and we’re not doing that here,” he added. “We’re offering both Baconator and Son at full price, which is an important nuance.”

The suggested retail prices for the sandwiches are $5.69 for the Baconator and $3.89 for Son of Baconator.

Lynch added that the menu flexibility afforded by the full-size sandwich and its smaller version fits with Wendy’s long-term positioning.

“Wendy’s began from day one with a single, double or triple,” he said, “so our customers understand and realize that you can make your sandwich as big or as small as you need based on the size of meat you use.”

Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s operates or franchises restaurants in the United States and 27 foreign markets.

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