Wendy's is introducing a line of new salads such as Apple Pecan Chicken and BLT Cobb as the fast-food chain tailors its sales pitch to focus on "real" ingredients to appeal to foodies.
The company, a unit of Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc., is also testing breakfast again across the country. Chief Marketing Officer Ken Calwell said he expects to know more about moving into that growing restaurant segment as early as later this year.
Calwell said the company plans to use what it learns through its new line of salads and expand it into remaking other areas of the company's business, including burgers, chicken and breakfast.
The line of four salads is available nationwide starting Friday. The salads retail for $5.99, about $1 more than the previous Garden Sensations line. The chain introduced those in 2002 and has long been considered an innovator in salads. It was the first fast-food chain to market with a salad bar in the 1980s.
Rivals McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Corp. have long served breakfast, and sandwich chain Subway, which has the most locations of any U.S. fast-food chain, rolled out a nationwide breakfast menu earlier this year.
Breakfast is one of the bright spots for the industry, which has been hurting as people pare back on their spending in the sluggish economy. It's less expensive than other meals and quick, appealing to people on the go in the mornings. According to market research firm The NPD Group, morning meal traffic rose on average 2 percent over the past five years, while lunch visits were flat and dinner fell 2 percent.
The new salad line is part of Wendy's effort to target people who care about ingredients and what they eat. The company teamed up with salad dressing maker Marzetti's to create new flavors such as avocado ranch and pomegranate vinaigrette. It's using multiple types of greens beyond iceberg lettuce, such as spinach, red and green chard, and red and green romaine. Wendy's signature chili is an ingredient in the Baja salad, which features Hass avocados and pico de gallo.
Breakfast will feature "real" ingredients too, such as applewood smoked bacon and fresh eggs. Calwell declined to say what would be on the breakfast menu, but CEO Roland Smith said earlier this year the company expects breakfast items to be grilled egg sandwiches, oatmeal bars, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.
He said the company will take its time getting into the growing breakfast segment because it wants to approach the business correctly.
"Our belief is even though it's tougher and takes longer, it's worth it," he said. "We want a breakfast where people go, 'Wow, here are real cracked eggs.'"