Wendy’s Announces Uber-Style Surge Pricing Experiment

(TargetDailyNews.com) – When Uber ride-shares overtook traditional taxicabs, customers got used to paying different prices for the same destination depending on the time of day. It looks like fast-food customers will have to do the same.

Wendy’s has announced it will begin testing “dynamic pricing” for its menu items in 2025. Similar to Uber’s “surge” pricing, the company says it will change the price of menu items on the fly in response to time of day, customer demand, and other factors. All of this, of course, will be displayed on the busy, flashing, and ever-changing digital menu boards that force customers to wait for the computer to cycle through the menus until the page they want appears again.

A Wendy’s representative described the upcoming tests in upbeat corporate-speak, adding that Wendy’s plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to change the menu, though there are no details yet about this feature.

Sounding like a cheerleader for a microchip company, the spokesperson said Wendy’s is “leveraging technology” to “accelerate our digital business,” in a way that “brings value” to customers.

On-the-fly price changing, known as dynamic pricing or surge pricing, is used by companies to make the price of supply meet ever-changing demand, often hour by hour. Rideshare companies such as Uber typically charge higher prices during peak hours when there are more customers than there are cars to dispatch. Music fans have also expressed outrage at Ticketmaster for implementing a similar pricing structure for concert tickets. USA Today’s headline on the subject asked if, like Uber, ever-changing fast-food prices would become “the new normal.”

According to the New York Post, Wendy’s is the most expensive among fast-food chains, with prices rising about 35 percent during 2022-2023.

At least one economics professor is skeptical about whether customers will tolerate the move. Steven Suranovic of George Washington University said Wendy’s might “shoot themselves in the foot” if customers aren’t ready for the change. He said regular lunch customers might consider themselves to be getting “gouged” and take their business elsewhere.

There is some confusion, however, as Wendy’s reacted to news articles that picked up on comments by its CEO. The company is now telling the media that reporters misunderstood what it meant by “dynamic pricing,” and that it will not change the price of food based on time of day. It is not clear how to square this latest claim with Wendy’s earlier announcements.

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