By Tiffany Hsu
11:11 AM PDT, August 6, 2012
So much for being a square. Fast food chain Wendy’s, known for its angular burger patties and slightly musty reputation, is going glamorous.
The classic Baconator and Hot 'N Juicy sandwiches are now joined by burgers piled high with extravagant ingredients such as lobster and caviar. They’re priced at just above $16, according to the Burger Business blog.
Here’s the catch: They’re available for only a limited time. And only in Japan.
Since returning to the Japanese market late last year after exiting in 2009, Wendy’s has rolled out a series of indulgent menu offerings. It debuted with a $16 burger lavished with foie gras and truffle sauce, followed by a $12.50 burger featuring chili and Iberian bacon.
Wendy’s American fare is much more subdued -- mostly in the $5 to $6 range. But the chain, along with competitors such as McDonald’s and KFC owner Yum Brands, is betting heavily on foreign expansion.
And it's also taking cues from the onslaught of so-called better burger fast-casual brands in the U.S. Chains such as Five Guys Burger & Fries and Smashburger are among the fastest-expanding quick-service restaurant companies in the country, luring customers with menus that offer value, high-quality ingredients and a premium experience that often includes customization options.
McDonald’s share makes up half of the quick-service burger segment -- which is the largest sector by revenue in the entire restaurant industry. But fast-casual chains grew sales by 20.8% last year, while the overall category expanded just 3.7%, according to a report last week from research group Technomic.
Smashburger’s sales grew more than 71% last year, while Five Guys watched its sales boom 24%, according to Technomic.
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