Wendy's, Fast food, AI

Wendy’s Set To Roll Out Uber-Like Pricing Surge On Menu

Is Wendy's food that good for all this?

Wendy’s customers will be paying a little more for their tasty burgers as the company is implementing a price surge to its menu.

The strategy is similar to ride-sharing company Uber, adding pricing, known as surge pricing, that fluctuates product prices based on factors such as the weather or the time of day.

A spokesperson from the fast food chain said the changes could happen as early as 2025, featuring “AI-enabled menu changes” and more.

“As early as 2025, we plan to test a number of features such as AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling based on factors, such as weather, that we think will provide great value and an improved customer and crew experience,” the spokesperson said. 

Some locations have already rolled out the new Wendy’s Fresh AI “drive-thru,” using AI to improve the speed and accuracy of the drive-thru transaction. To expand on the strategy, CEO Kirk Tanner said Wendy’s has invested $20 million on digital menu boards to add to all U.S. company-operated restaurants by the end of 2025.

The company hopes that the massive investment will give them “flexibility to change the menu more easily,” assist with drive-thru traffic and provide more value during slower parts of the day.

Experts like George Washington University economics professor Steven Suranovic say plans like this aren’t new for other industries, but being tested in fast food elevates technology.

“This has been around in a few industries already, but in the context of fast food, it’s a new development and is pushing the technology to new places,” Suranovic said. 

While the spokesperson said the new pricing will “allow Wendy’s to be competitive,” Suranovic thinks some customers will get the short end of the stick. “Dynamic pricing enables them to take that surplus away from consumers and put it into the firm’s pocket,” he said.

“Ultimately, the biggest losers would be lunchtime customers. If people feel like they’re getting gouged, they’re not going to take kindly to this dynamic pricing strategy.”

Other competitors have already received pushback over raising prices that were once affordable. The price for McDonald’s popular Big Mac combo, going for $18, caused the chain to refocus on the company’s promise of being affordable. Many customers facing financial issues stopped eating at McDonald’s. CEO Chris Kempczinski put some of the blame on inflation. “In particular, low-income customers making less than $45,000 per year have largely stopped ordering from McDonald’s,” Kempczinski admitted. 

“Pummeled by inflation, they’re eating at home more frequently as grocery prices come down.” 

With Wendy’s operating 6,030 restaurants in the U.S., charging more for food during high-traffic times may help the company cut costs, including having to bring in more staff at peak hours.