The late Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s (NASDAQ: WEN), would be happy to read the headlines this week that announce that the restaurant chain he founded has displaced Burger King as the 2nd largest hamburger chain in the United States, according to a report by restaurant industry data provider Technomic. In 2011, Wendy’s posted $8.5 billion (USD) in sales, edging out Burger King’s $8.4 billion in sales to secure the second place spot. This makes Wendy’s second only to the long-reigning undisputed champion, McDonald’s, in the battle of the burgers.
The news of Wendy’s pulling ahead of Burger King is quite impressive given the fact that Burger King has many more restaurants than Wendy’s — in fact, it has nearly double the approximately 7,000 locations that Wendy’s does. While Wendy’s seems to be on the upswing, Burger King has fallen behind in recent years as it has struggled to fight off declining same-restaurant sales in the United States. Burger King, which was purchased by 3G Capital in 2010, also sacked its creepy-looking mascot, “The Burger King”, in an attempt to refresh its brand image. However, it would seem that Burger King has a long way to go to get back into the fight with McDonald’s and Wendy’s both posting extremely encouraging data about the health of their domestic businesses.
Wendy’s credits its consistent focus on quality and its recent effort to market premium burgers, such as “Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Burger” and The “W”, for its surge in sales. Along with their revamped menu selection, Wendy’s also began a large rollout of renovations to its stores to give them a more modern look and feel, a move they feel will help attract new customers to dine inside their locations.
Rounding out Technomic’s list of top restaurants were Subway and Starbucks, who both posted a healthy 7.5% sales gain in 2011. The full report by Technomic on the 2011 restaurant space, which will include sales data for the top 500 restaurants, is due to be released on April 13, 2012.