Wendy’s says ‘dynamic’ pricing won’t tack surge pricing onto your nuggets

A photo of a Wendy’s sign in New York
Photo by Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

In response to reports that Wendy’s plan for new digital menu boards that can update throughout the day might increase prices of spicy chicken nuggets and other menu items at busy times, the fast food chain now claims this isn’t the case. Instead, Wendy’s says its “dynamic” pricing model will only result in “discounts and value” during the slowest times of the day — leaving other times of the day with higher standard prices unaddressed.

Earlier this month, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner said the company wants to start testing dynamic pricing in 2025 — a system that would use Wendy’s digital menu boards to adjust pricing throughout the day. In terms of comparisons to Uber surge pricing, Wendy’s claims this isn’t the case and that media reports “misconstrued” the chain’s intent.

“To clarify, Wendy’s will not implement surge pricing, which is the practice of raising prices when demand is highest,” Wendy’s spokesperson Heidi Schauer says in a statement to The Verge. “We didn’t use that phrase, nor do we plan to implement that practice.”

Here’s Wendy’s full statement:

Earlier this month we issued our fourth quarter and full year 2023 earnings results and included an update on investments we are making in our digital business. One initiative is digital menuboards, which are being added to U.S. Company-operated restaurants. We said these menuboards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items. This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest at our restaurants.

We have no plans to do that and would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most. Any features we may test in the future would be designed to benefit our customers and restaurant crew members. Digital menuboards could allow us to change the menu offerings at different times of day and offer discounts and value offers to our customers more easily, particularly in the slower times of day. Wendy’s has always been about providing high-quality food at a great value, and customers can continue to expect that from our brand.

When asked whether Wendy’s will work with ItsaCheckmate, an order and menu company it partnered with in 2022, to implement dynamic pricing, Schauer said the company doesn’t “have any additional detail to share at this time.”

ItsaCheckmate’s website describes two dynamic pricing services: Juicer and Sauce. Sauce, which is advertised as being “crafted by Kevin Novak, the mastermind behind Uber’s pricing strategy,” can have different pricing strategies for different times of day or adjust in response to specific rising ingredient prices. Meanwhile, Juicer uses an algorithm to “intelligently set prices for each menu item, per location, and across all sales channels, at all times.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted about the news, calling Wendy’s plans “price gouging plain and simple.” New York state assemblymember Kenny Burgos said he is drafting a bill to prevent Wendy’s from implementing surge pricing on its menu items.

“We are truly moving into a dystopian era when Americans will be forced to adjust their meal timing to prevent being overcharged for a simple meal of burgers and fries,” Burgos says in a statement. “I will not stand idly by as Wendy’s uses an unfair leverage to treat their menu items like the stock market at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.”