With a successful 48-year history, Wendy’s has clearly become a fast food icon. However, some may not realize Wendy’s is the only fast food joint that sells a baked potato. Thanks to the success of this classic item over the years, the Wendy’s baked potato may just be the best deal in fast food.
The concept of the baked potato is simple, but according to Thrillist, the process of getting this steamy side item into stores and onto the plates of customers is a “logistical nightmare,” and that’s where Wendy’s is cashing in.
While potatoes have a very traditional role inside the fast food industry, most potatoes quickly shed their natural state after being cut and fried. Case in point, a plain Wendy’s baked potato weighs 11.5 ounces and is about 270 calories.
Even when cheese and bacon bits are added, it’s only 480 calories. Compared to a 320-calorie small order of fries, Wendy’s baked potato is clearly superior in terms of serving size, while being a slightly healthier alternative.
Still, there’s no easy way to go about cooking a baked potato. However, Wendy’s has innovated, bringing in new convection ovens to handle, “1 million potatoes per week,” according to a Wendy’s spokesperson.
According to Lori Estrada, Wendy’s VP of Culinary Innovation, being able to find a solution for this time-consuming challenge in a fast-food industry built on convenience and speed is where Wendy’s has capitalized the most.
With the cost of a plain baked potato between $1.89 and $1.99 before tax, multiplied by the number of units sold — 1 million potatoes per week, or 52 million a year — it can be estimated that Wendy’s baked potatoes bring in $2 million per week. That’s about $100 million annually.
“It’s a challenge, operationally, to be able to serve them and have them ready for every customer who comes through our doors,” Estrada divulged. “I can only guess that aspect has made it hard for other places to be willing to put something like this into production.”
Considering the endless possibilities of baked potato modification, which Estrada said can be customized with, “anything we top our fries or burgers with,” Wendy’s baked potato is a beacon of creativity, sustenance and truly one of the most over-looked menu items in fast food.