Wendy's Is Cutting Burgers and Promotions in the Face of a Beef Shortage

It looks like some Wendy's locations may be entirely out of burgers.

The meat shortage is already being felt at Wendy's. The pigtailed chain, which has long boasted about its fresh, never frozen burger patties, appears to be struggling with its beef supply, according to multiple reports.

Thrillist has confirmed that Wendy's has removed promotions from its mobile app due to supply concerns. In April, the chain launched a promotion in its mobile app offering a free Dave's Single burger with any purchase. The deal was slated to last until May 3, but was removed from the app's offers section early. In addition to pulling promotions, some locations are reportedly out of beef and unable to serve burgers.

"As you’ve likely read, there have been challenges among protein suppliers across North America," a Wendy's spokesperson said when asked about the deals. "Because of this, some of Wendy’s menu items may be in short supply from time to time, therefore, we’ve adjusted our mobile offers to minimize the impact to our customers and our restaurant teams. We’re continuing to work closely with our supplier partners to monitor this closely."

A report from CNN indicates the company may be more exposed than other chains to a shortage because of a reliance on fresh beef. That report also says that the number of locations that have run out of beef may be as high as 18%.

The company declined to respond to questions about whether the concerns are isolated to beef. However, in-app promotions for menu items containing pork and chicken were not pulled like the ones containing beef products. The company has since launched promotions focusing on chicken sandwiches both internally and through the delivery app Postmates

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare problems with the meat supply chain. Major outbreak centers include meat processing facilities like Smithfield in South Dakota, where hundreds of confirmed cases of coronavirus have made it a hot spot. These, among other factors, have led to the potential for a meat shortage. As of April 27, the US Department of Agriculture said beef production was down 25% compared to last year, pork production was down 15%, and lamb and veal production were also down 15%. 

More than a dozen other fast food and chain restaurants, including Hardee's, Burger King, IHOP, Red Robin, Farmer Boys, Denny's, and others declined to comment on the potential for shortages at their own restaurants. 

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.