When you go to Wendy’s, it is almost invariably for one of their fresh, never frozen burgers. In the age of Coronavirus, however, a trip to Wendy’s might require forgoing meat.
There are numerous reports on Twitter of fast food-seekers who have made the trek to their nearby Wendy’s only to find that, wherever the beef is, it isn’t there. In some cases, the restaurants are out of chicken as well.
The chain blames suppliers and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on meatpacking plants for the shortage.
A Wendy’s spokesman told Restaurant Business, “As you’ve likely read, there have been challenges among protein suppliers across North America. We are working closely with our supplier partners and restaurant teams to minimize the impact to our customers and continue to monitor this closely.”
The trade publication reports that beef production is down 25 percent from last year. The problem stems both from plant shutdowns and the difficulty in finding workers willing to work in an environment that has proved to be a breeding ground for COVID-19.
“If you’re in a never-frozen beef program, you can’t get ahead of this in any great way,” the Wendy’s spokesman said. “It’s not just QSR [Wendy’s franchiser, Restaurant Brands International]. It’s casual dining or anybody who’s selling a lot of hamburgers.”
McDonald’s and Burger King say that they have not yet experienced supply interruptions.
The shortage of beef may also drive up burger prices. So far, decreased demand has helped to offset the lower production, but, as more states emerge from shelter-in-place, the return of customers will place more pressure on both food suppliers and restaurants.
Some Wendy’s locations have gone so far as to implement rationing. There are reports that some restaurants are not selling double or triple burgers. However, there seem to be no limits on the number of burgers that an individual can purchase.
The Wendy’s burger shortage is just the latest indication that America is not yet capable of returning to business as usual. With more possible interruptions to food supply chains, the search for the beef at Wendy’s may not be the final problem for American food companies.