Yesterday I was in Albuquerque to get my oil changed. When I pulled into Jiffy Lube I noticed the Wendy's next door looked completely different. I had 45 minutes to kill (Jiffy what?) so I told the oil guy I was going to check it out. He told me it opened just 4 days ago. I walked into what felt like an airport lounge in Europe. Very sleek, lots of wood, minimalist styling. In the corner was a "living room" set up with an artsy gas fireplace, flat screen TV. I went to the counter and was cheerfully greeted by two employees who made it feel like they got points for serving me first. I ordered a frosty and a water. She asked for my name. Interesting.....she handed me the receipt (and it had my name spelled correctly!) and as another employee handed me my frosty he said "Here you go Denise, enjoy."
I took at seat in the corner living room, opened up my iPad and of course there's complimentary wifi. Thank you Wendy. Then the manager came out and went table to table asking people how their meal was, what did they think of the new look, could she get anything else for them. That's when I also realized that they invited people with food orders to have a seat and they will bring their meal out. Of course that meant they stood in the middle of the restaurant saying "Sarah?" holding her tray of burgers and fries for all to see. Not sure about that.....
On the beautifully crafted wood wall where you get your sodas and condiments was the declaration that Wendy's starts with one word - FRESH.
So let's review. Who is the target audience for the new Wendy's? I would say upper middle class (this was located in the Northeast Heights area of ABQ, aka swanky town), healthy fast food seekers. There are not a lot of options in the "healthy and fresh" category.
Who are their competitors? I would say they moved from McDonald's and Burger King to Chipotle. Their focus on the many varieties of freshly made salads. the fireplace corner and free wifi smacked of Panera.
The big question - will it work? I applaud Wendy's for the effort. They have always felt like the JC Penney of the burger brands. Kind of dull, no real differentiator unless you want to count the square shaped burger. The manager told me that all Wendy's nationwide will go through this transformation so they are not testing - they are committed. Check it out and let me know what you think.