Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Armchair CEO-ing

The phone rings, and you answer it to find some guy named Jim Pickett on the line. He explains he’s just been appointed chairman of Wendy’s International, with the express mandate of reconditioning it into an industry Barry Bonds, sans steroids. He’s heard that you, like seemingly everyone else in the industry, has some thoughts about how to do it. So spill it: What would you do to fix the brand?

That’s what we asked tens of thousands of industry members last week, in Nation’s Restaurant News’ weekly electronic newsletter. Every issue, we ask a question that allows you to play foodservice Simon Cowell and air your opinion, assessment or advice on some restaurant-related matters, from the use of iPods to the hottest cocktail of the moment. This time, we plunked down the soapbox and asked for volunteers to jump up and expound on how to fix Wendy’s.

Within minutes of transmitting the e-letter on Monday, the advice started flowing in—along with the wiseass comments. “First let Wendy’s invite me to headquarters, and then I will go over my list,” one keyboard-stymied responder came close to typing, though with considerably more errors and omissions than that cleaned-up version.

Surprisingly—or perhaps not—almost every response offered the same assessment of what wrong, or very uniform advice about what strategic direction the chain should take. Most either asserted that Wendy’s had lost its distinction, or backed into the same assessment by suggesting it redefine and assertively claim its niche.

The difference was in the tactical suggestions. One anonymous poster recommended that the chain add a breakfast burrito, erroneously suggesting that no other chain of note has one (Carl’s Jr. has one that makes me contemplate moving west).”To appeal to the Hispanic market I would add a couple of chorizo-based burritos,” he/she added.

Valerie Knorr of Bear in Paradise similarly suggested that Wendy’s add breakfast items, specifically sandwiches, Tim Hortons cinnamon rolls, and alternatives made with meat substitutes at no up-charge in price. She also advised that the No. 3 burger chain try vegetarian meal combos, or meat substitutes.

A number of others asserted that Wendy’s take the high-health ground by stressing freshness. “Make a bold product-differentiation statement by moving strongly into fresh items, including reinstituting the salad bar. This time, do more than just fill up the bins at 10:45 and clean up the mess at midnight,” wrote Marc Onigman of Nutrinformation.

Reposition the brand “as a 'real' meal solution promoting freshness, wholesomeness and convenience for time starved families,” wrote Arlene Spiegel, president of the New York consultancy that bears her name. “Get out of the burger wars and more into meal-solutions.”

Two averred that Wendy’s should dump its ad agency, while one said it should also give the heave-ho to newly named interim CEO Kerrii Anderson, along with such execs as Ian Rowen and Jeff Cava. And, the would-be 86er advised, bring back Emile Brolick, currently the head of taco Bell.

But the one Ann Landers-like tidbit that I really liked—an assertion that might have kept the prematurely retired Jack Schuessler in his posts as chairman, CEO and president—was Onigman’s closing recommendation: “Commit [to a plan] companywide. Know that you're going to take upfront losses. And stick with it.”

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1 comment:

  1. John Deane, was not a operations expert. He was and is a IT expert, appointed by the ex president Tom Mueller of BK fame. Enough said. Now the Callaway guy must go. Does Charlie Rath have any Kids in the biz?