DUBLIN, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — Wendy’s breakfast continues to catch on with consumers.

Since launching nationwide in March 2020, the morning menu has grown to 7.5% of the Dublin-based restaurant company’s sales in its most recent quarter and climbed into the top three for breakfast market share among quick-service burger chains.

“Our awareness is on par with Burger King and they’ve been doing breakfast a long time,” CEO Todd Penegor said on Wednesday morning conference call with stock analysts.

Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) is the second-largest quick-service burger chain by sales in the United States and the third-largest by restaurant count, so with a nationwide rollout of breakfast, it might have been inevitable for it to crack that top three. But it did start from almost no share just 20 months ago. The company did have a handful of restaurants still serving breakfast from the previous program a decade earlier.

The company cited market researcher NPD/Crest as the source for that market share ranking.

Penegor said repeat visits continue to be strong and the product is ranking high for quality. Awareness remains the big push. More spending will go toward advertising.

The company expects breakfast sales to have grown between 20% and 30% from 2020 when 2021 is finished. Same-restaurant sales were up 3.3% worldwide and 2.1% in the U.S. The two-year trend is up 9.4%

Penegor noted the company has grown or maintained its market share in nine consecutive quarters.

Other key initiatives including digital sales and international growth continue to perform as well, with digital sales now accounting for 8.5% of total sales and international boosted by the successful start to the United Kingdom market, which now has seven restaurants.

Penegor also said two-thirds of international locations have returned to pre-Covid performance and there have been no Covid-related closings among its international footprint.

Costs are rising, however, which is squeezing margins.

And finding new employees remains a challenge for Wendy’s, as it is for most in the restaurant industry, regardless of size. Labor costs were up 9.5% in the quarter and the company still isn’t at the staffing levels it would like.

“There’s no clear (geographic) pattern,” Penegor said. “There are good pockets and bad pockets.”

He did say they have seen an increase in applications and that the company continues to invest more in its employees, benefits, and employee recognition/reward programs.

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