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Will Wendy's New Burger Be the New Coke?

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Throughout the history of franchised fast food, the burger wars have never been close. McDonald’s (MCD) has always owned majority market share, last year, claiming 49.5%, with Burger King (BKC) trailing in second place. You’d think, after all of these years, Wendy’s (WEN) would have finally acquiesced to its designation as the industry’s redheaded stepchild.

Instead, the burger chain is doing the unthinkable: changing its recipe. I suppose if it’s broke, you should try and fix it but these sorts of taste reinventions historically don’t work, lest we forget the taste and packaging Frankenstein that was “New Coke.”

After being unveiled in April 1985, it was only three months until Coca Cola (KO) pulled the recipe of its flagship product out of retirement and promised its immediate return to the marketplace.

Sure, Wendy’s burger isn’t the iconic Big Mac or Whopper but that little square-pattied sandwich was the only signature item the restaurant had. McDonald’s and Burger King have undergone image makeovers, re-imagined their menus to conform with new societal health standards and Burger King even modified its fries but the chains never messed with their bread and butter.

Now, after two years of intense tweaking and taste testing, Wendy’s has unveiled what it hopes will be the new golden calf of fast food burgers.

Today, the world is getting its first taste of Dave's Hot 'N Juicy, an unfortunate name, not only for its absence of pithiness, but for the suggestive image it conjures of Wendy’s late founder Dave Thomas.

Inside its newly buttered, toasted bun, the burger has a thicker, meatier patty topped with red onion, a thick tomato slice and crinkle cut pickles.

"Our food was already good," said Denny Lynch, a Wendy's spokesman. "We wanted it to be better. Isn't that what long-term brands do? They reinvent themselves."

Only rarely and disastrously.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.