Wendy’s uses about as much fresh fruits and vegetables as any quick-service restaurant, and it’s shifting to seasonal menu items to offer fresh produce when it’s at its peak.
“Our biggest trend in salads is our Harvest Chicken Salad,” said director of culinary innovation Shelly Thobe, of the salad with diced red and green apples, dried cranberries, feta cheese, walnuts, bacon and chicken over lettuce.
“Seasonality is key to our customers, especially millennials,” she said. “They can get vegetables, fruits and the flavors of fall for the same price as a pumpkin spice latte.”
She said apples a major item for fall and winter menus, while berries are often part of the summer salad menu.
“Berries are not available year-round to someone as large as Wendy’s,” Thobe said, noting that the chain has more than 6,600 restaurants worldwide.
She said Wendy’s has used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and mangoes when they’ve been in season and can guarantee a consistent supply.
Wendy’s offers lettuce and tomatoes on all its burgers, which employees slice in-house, for a higher quality experience for customers.
Over the summer, the chain announced it plans to source all its tomatoes from greenhouses by early next year. Thobe said greenhouse-grown vegetables offer higher quality and consistency, and Wendy’s plans to source from about a dozen suppliers all over North America.
Still most of Wendy’s fresh fruits and vegetables come from the West Coast.
“I talk with someone in California every single week from the produce community,” she said.
She also enjoyed seeing new fresh produce trends at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit.
In addition to fresh entre salads, Wendy’s offers Apple Bites sliced apples, baked potatoes and side salads year-round, and seasonal items, such as a berry fruit cup in the summer.
“The most important thing is to deliver high quality and consistency of our products,” she said.