Last week, Wendy’s, the No. 3 burger quick-serve in the nation, countered McDonald’s $1 Double Cheeseburger, amidst questions of the product’s survival, with the nationwide launch of its own Double Stack Cheeseburger for just 99 cents.

The company announced Friday that it plans to aggressively promote the menu item along with two other 99-cent sandwiches. “The Double Stack is a proven store traffic and sales driver,” says Wendy’s Interim Chief Marketing Officer, Paul Kershisnik, in a statement released by the company. “While the sandwich has been offered over the years in a number of U.S. markets, this will be the first time we have rolled it out nationally.”

But it’s not just the sandwich’s popularity that caused the national rollout. The wavering confidence in McDonald’s dollar menu certainly played a part in the push to move the Double Stack to the national stage. “The Double Stack cheeseburger and the other two value sandwiches will go head-to-head against the Double Cheeseburger offered by Wendy’s largest competitor,” the company said in its statement.
Signs of McDonald’s wavering confidence in its own $1 offerings have been coming since May when it announced it would have to absorb the increase in food prices. In a conference call with stock analysts in July, McDonald’s COO, Ralph Alvarez, warned of changes to the company’s $1 offerings.

“The cost implications of having that value menu have changed when you see what’s going on in beef and chicken,” Alvarez said. “The way the dollar menu looks today won’t be the way it looks next year.”

The Wendy’s Double Stack is made with two hamburger patties, cheese, ketchup, onion, mustard, and pickles, identical to McDonald’s Double Cheese burger, and will replace the Stack Attack, which Wendy’s launched only 10 months ago. The Stack Attack was made with only mayonnaise and ketchup toppings.

This might be just the beginning of the $1 burger battle, however. No. 2 burger chain, Burger King, is testing a $1 Whopper Jr. with 0.2 less meat to counter rising food costs.

–Blair Chancey

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