1. Channel: Restaurants

Wendy’s Plans Surge Pricing.  Maybe?  

There were numerous press reports yesterday that fast feeder Wendy’s plans to institute surge pricing – charging higher prices at high-demand times – sometime next year.

The reports seemed to emanate from comments made earlier this month by the company’s new CEO-president, Kirk Tanner, who said that the chain plans to rollout “dynamic pricing,” enabled by new digital menu boards.

The New York Times reports that “in adopting the pricing strategy, Wendy’s will join a number of other companies that have introduced dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing, to charge more during periods of high demand, often to the chagrin of customers.

“Uber and Lyft, for example, charge more when demand outpaces the availability of cars on the road — during rush hour, for instance, or in bad weather. Concertgoers have also experienced dynamic pricing, with some Bruce Springsteen fans, for instance, finding that seats on Ticketmaster were costing upward of $5,500 when he returned to performing with his band after a yearslong hiatus.”

However, the Times also reports that “Wendy’s customers expressed outrage on social media over the new strategy, with some even calling for a boycott. One quipped that she’d plan to get lunch at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.”

By late last night, Wendy’s was “clarifying” its CEO’s comments.

NBC News reported that a spokesperson said that, “To clarify, Wendy’s will not implement surge pricing, which is the practice of raising prices when demand is highest. We didn’t use that phrase, nor do we plan to implement that practice.”

The spokesperson went on: “We said these (digital) menu boards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items. This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest at our restaurants. We have no plans to do that and would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most … Any features we may test in the future would be designed to benefit our customers and restaurant crew members. Digital menu boards could allow us to change the menu offerings at different times of day and offer discounts and value offers to our customers more easily, particularly in the slower times of day.”

KC’s View:

They actually could’ve put out a press release with a single word:


I wonder if this is much a matter of optics as anything.  Wouldn’t it have been just as effective – and less upsetting to customers – if the company had raised prices overall and then offered lower prices at low-demand times?

In so many ways, this is a matter of a company losing control of the narrative, and vividly illustrates why companies need to have someone in the role of “chief storyteller.”  Maybe not with that exact title, but not necessarily the person in charge of communications, who would play more of an operational, nuts-and-bolts role.  Storytelling is not the same thing – it is an art, and requires a different skill set.

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