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Wendy's Says it Plans to Implement Surge Pricing in 2025

Fast food giant Wendy’s plans to test out its own form of surge pricing in 2025, according to comments made by its CEO during the company’s February earnings call. 

Wendy's flagship restaurant in Dublin, Ohio. Via Wikimedia Commons

"Beginning as early as 2025, we will begin testing more enhanced features like dynamic pricing,” Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner said on the call, according to Gizmodo. Tanner said the company plans to invest approximately $20 million in digital menus, with an additional $10 million “over the next two years to support digital menu board enhancements for the global system.” The digital menus will allow the company to change its prices easily at any time of day or night, depending on whatever arbitrary justification they feel allows for a “dynamic” shift in price. 

Tanner also said the company plans to move forward with “AI enabled menu changes and suggestive selling,” according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Wendy’s will also reportedly spend $55 million over the next two years to market its breakfast menu in the US and Canada. 

Thanks to rideshare behemoths like Uber and Lyft consumers have become forced to accept companies worming surge pricing into more parts of our lives. While price changes based on whims has been common in industries like travel and hospitality, with airlines charging more for tickets based on peak travel times and hotels charging more based on peak tourism numbers in an area, the practice is becoming increasingly common in other sectors. As if there isn’t enough price gouging already when it comes to concerts and sporting events, surge pricing dynamic pricing is becoming increasingly common when purchasing tickets. 

Changing prices based on vibes is a practice designed to extract as much wealth from both consumer and worker, especially when it comes to goods and services. We’ve already begrudgingly accepted that a Dave’s Single in New York City ($6.99) will be a couple bucks more than in other places like its flagship location in Dublin, Ohio ($5.49). Drivers pay more at the pump based on geographic location and time of year. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, 36 percent of toilet paper increased by 20 percent, and 11 percent at least doubled in price, with the highest price increase coming in at just under $80 ($30.95 to $109.99) for a 36 roll package. 

Wendy’s seems to believe that people will embrace and even celebrate the move. "We expect our digital menu boards will drive immediate benefits to order accuracy, improve crew experience, and [prompt] sales growth from upselling and consistent merchandising execution,” said Tanner. 

But the reason why surge pricing works for ride sharing or concert tickets is because a very small amount of companies have a near monopoly on the good or service. If you need a ride and are out of other options like public transit or cycling and can’t find a cab, Uber and Lyft are the only games in town. Almost every major tour sells through Ticketmaster. But in a good chunk of America, you can throw a rock in almost any direction and hit a car in a drive-thu. Many times, if there’s a Wendy’s, there’s also a McDonald’s, a Burger King, and probably a KFC or Taco Bell, not to mention any number of regional chains or independent owned fast food joints. 

Whether or not surge pricing will be the windfall the company’s executives hope it will be is up in the air, but the really unfortunate part for all of us is that if one of the fast food chains is toying with the idea, it probably means more of them are. Which means as we march bravely into the future, we need to be prepared for a sea of digital signs screaming ever changing prices in our faces that are most likely far too high for what they’re offering. 



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