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Wendy’s betrays spicy nugget lovers everywhere and will introduce surge pricing



Imagine waiting in line at your local Wendy’s drive-thru during the lunch rush, only to pull up to the menu board and realize that the spicy chicken nuggets you’ve been craving all day will cost you a dollar extra. That nightmare may soon become a reality, because Wendy’s plans on testing surge pricing that will increase the price of its spicy nuggets, burgers, Frostys, and other favorites during its busiest times.

During an earnings call earlier this month, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner said the fast food chain plans on investing $20 million to roll out digital menu boards to US-based restaurants by the end of 2025. As part of the change, Wendy’s will also introduce something called “dynamic prices” that will change the prices on the digital menu boards based on demand. It sounds similar to the surge pricing system implemented by Uber, which charges riders higher rates in busy areas.

“Beginning as early as 2025, we will begin testing more enhanced features like dynamic pricing and day-part offerings along with AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling,” Tanner says. “As we continue to show the benefit of this technology in our company-operated restaurants, franchisee interest in digital menu boards should increase further supporting sales and profit growth across the system.”

The Verge reached out to Wendy’s for more information about dynamic pricing but didn’t immediately hear back.

And as noted in that quote above, dynamic pricing isn’t the only bet Wendy’s is making on technology. Last year, Wendy’s started testing an AI chatbot at a drive-thru in Columbus, Ohio, and bragged that it didn’t need human intervention around 86 percent of the time. Now, Tanner says Wendy’s has already rolled out its AI drive-thru assistant in several other restaurants and has seen “ongoing improvement in speed and accuracy.”

There’s also the “AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling.” It’s unclear what that means. It could be as simple as “It’s 11pm and I know you’re just here for a Frosty before bed” or “We noticed a lot of people cut the lettuce on the spicy chicken sandwich — would you like that, too?” Either way, it will likely appear alongside surge pricing and an AI chatbot that gets it right 86 percent of the time.

I, for one, don’t like the idea of my Frosty Cream Cold Brew and Breakfast Baconator getting a price hike during the morning rush. I might just have to start driving down the road for a McCafe and an Egg McMuffin instead.

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