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Pop Culture

Don't worry, Wendy's isn't raising prices during the busiest times. But changes are coming.

People were very upset after hearing that surge pricing may come to the local drive-thru.

A combo meal from Wendy's.

In a world where prices are continuously increasing, prominent companies are turning to surge pricing to raise prices even further during peak demand times. Uber charges people more for a ride when demand is high. Hotels have been changing prices based on demand for years and Amazon uses AI to keep prices constantly in flux.

Recently, Ticketmaster, known for charging high fees, has been charging customers even more for tickets as demand rises.

On Monday, February 26, news reports began circulating that Wendy’s, America's 5th most popular fast-food chain, would implement dynamic pricing at its restaurants. Many assumed that meant a Dave’s Double burger would cost an extra $3 during dinner time or medium fries would cost an extra buck during the lunch rush.

The changes in pricing are part of a $30 million effort to launch digital menu boards at all of its U.S. company-run restaurants by the end of 2025 and to enhance its digital menus at restaurants across the globe.

Many people feared the worst after the reports, but Wendy’s hadn’t provided any specifics on pricing during its announcement. “Dynamic pricing can allow Wendy’s to be competitive and flexible with pricing, motivate customers to visit and provide them with the food they love at a great value,” a Wendy’s spokesperson told The New York Post. “We will test a number of features that we think will provide an enhanced customer and crew experience.”

The news caused a lot of outrage on Twitter, where many railed against what they saw as a plan to start price gouging. They also feared that surge pricing would become ubiquitous in the fast-food industry, where consistency and low prices keep people returning to the drive-thru.

If you can’t depend on the price of a burger and fries on the drive home from work, then what can you depend on?

Prices at fast food restaurants are already on the rise. McDonald's raised its prices by 10% over the last year, and, according to PriceListo, Wendey’s prices have soared by 35% between 2022 and 2023 due to a rise in the cost of labor and supplies.

Adding surge pricing on top of higher prices would force many people to abandon the drive-thru altogether.

After the public backlash against its new pricing strategy, Wendy’s clarified that it has no intention of implementing surge pricing. “Wendy’s will not implement surge pricing, which is the practice of raising prices when demand is highest. We didn’t use that phrase, nor do we plan to implement that practice,” the company said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, February 28.

However, it did add that its new digital menu boards may offer more dynamic menu offerings throughout the day that could save consumers a few bucks for stopping by during non-peak hours. The company said the new digital menus “could allow us to change the menu offerings at different times of day and offer discounts and value offers to our customers more easily, particularly in the slower times of day.”