Nearly a fifth of Wendy’s US restaurants are out of beef, analyst says

The Wendy’s Co. logo is seen on a cup displayed for a photograph at a restaurant location in Daly City, California.

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Nearly a fifth of Wendy’s U.S. restaurants are out of beef, according to a Stephens Inc. study.

Stephens analyst James Rutherford said that a study of online menus for every Wendy’s location nationwide revealed that 1,043 restaurants — or 18% of its national footprint — have listed beef items as out of stock. More than 100 locations are still selling Wendy’s chili, which contains beef.

The shortages vary by state. Hundreds of Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and New York restaurants are out of beef, while other states’ menus do not indicate any supply chain issues.

“A short outage is not material in our view,” Rutherford said in a note to clients Tuesday.

Shares of the company fell 2.5% Tuesday. The stock, which has a market value of $4.28 billion, has fallen 13% in 2020.

“It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges,” Wendy’s spokeswoman Heidi Schauer said in a statement to CNBC. “We continue to supply hamburgers to all of our restaurants, with deliveries two or three times a week, which is consistent with normal delivery schedules. However, some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment.”

Schauer said the company is working to minimize the impact to its customers and restaurants and monitoring the issue.

Since its beginning, Wendy’s has touted its use of fresh beef as a way to differentiate from McDonald’s and Restaurant Brands International’s Burger King, although McDonald’s began using fresh beef in its Quarter Pounder burgers in 2018. Neither fast-food rival reported any supply-chain disruptions during their earnings calls last week.

But the national beef supply is under pressure as meatpacking plants slow production or even shutter temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic. A 10th of national beef production has been affected by closures, according to estimates from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in late April.

Shake Shack, which also uses fresh beef in its burgers, said Monday that beef prices are significantly higher, but it has not experienced any shortages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects that meat prices for consumers will tick up slightly in 2020, with beef prices forecast to rise as much as 2%. 

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