The genesis of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, winner of the 2014 MenuMasters award for Best Limited-Time Offer, was a pretzel roll that Wendy’s officials spied in a bread basket at a full-service restaurant.
“We went to a supplier partner of ours and said, ‘This would be really interesting as a hamburger bun,’” said Lori Estrada, Wendy’s vice president of culinary innovation. “What can we do with this?”
That set in motion a development campaign with dozens of collaborators, including Wendy’s research and development, quality assurance, operations, and marketing teams, as well as vendors. The upshot was a beef patty topped with upgraded bacon, nine-leaf lettuce mix, Cheddar cheese, Cheddar sauce and honey mustard, all on a unique pretzel bun.
When the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger rolled out as a nationwide limited-time offer last July, supported by social media, TV, radio and a celebrity-focused digital marketing campaign, it was the most highly anticipated new item launch in Wendy’s recent history. In fact, the LTO was so successful that it was extended through November. The cheeseburger was even credited with helping Wendy’s increase its quarterly sales.
In addition to perfecting the pretzel bun, Wendy’s made the new burger fit operational constraints limiting the expansion of current inventory. Only one ingredient other than the bun — sliced natural Cheddar cheese — needed to be brought in.
The intersection of pretzel, bacon, Cheddar and hamburger — all consumer favorites — proved a winning combination.
“It seemed wild while we were doing it,” Estrada said. “But now it seems like it was meant to be.”
What makes Wendy's Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger a winner:
1. Pretzel bun: With its photogenic mahogany hue and criss-cross slashes, the bun is an example of the upscale breads that restaurants now are using to drive new sandwich sales.
2. Honey mustard: Popular with guests and already stocked in the stores, the honey mustard brought a complementary flavor to the cheeseburger and nixed the need for additional condiments.
3. Spring mix: Wendy’s nine-leaf spring salad mix is a fitting freshness cue for the premium=priced menu item. Since it was already in the restaurants, there were no inventory issues.
4. Bacon: Wendy’s upgraded center-cut, applewood-smoked bacon, with is sweet, salty, smoky allure, gives the cheeseburger even broader consumer appeal.
5. Cheddar: A slice of natural Cheddar plus a dollop of Cheddar sauce doubled down on richness and underscored the affinity between pretzels and cheese.