The Marketing Scheme Behind Wendy's Square Burgers And Why It Almost Backfired

A square hamburger? Popular fast food chain Wendy's thought it was a good idea. When Dave Thomas first opened Wendy's in 1969, he wanted the focus to be on the meat, optimizing for the juiciest burger. After all, "fresh, never frozen" is one of Wendy's slogans. But the decision to cook the meat in a square was also to make sure that it would stick out of the bun.


"Dave was always very confident in the quality of our meat. He wanted to make sure that the patty sticks out of the bun so that everyone can see it, see the juiciness. And the square patty does that," Frank Vamos, director of brand communications for Wendy's in 2016 told Thrillist. So this was more of a marketing ploy than anything to do with taste — but there is something efficient about the square shape in terms of food preparation: "We can fit more square hamburgers on a single grill than round ones," John Li, vice president of culinary innovation at the Wendy's Company, told CNN Business.

It almost backfired

Wendy's square burgers have become an iconic part of the brand's image, but they almost lost customers because of the shape. While Wendy's wanted to show off their quality meat, customers were skeptical of a hamburger that was square. Having become accustomed to the round patties from other fast food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King, people thought Wendy's burger looked unnatural and weird. Some said the square shape actually did the opposite of what it was intended to do — it made the burgers actually look more processed and of less quality. 


Wendy's merged with parent company Triarc in 2008. This merger caused the company to reconsider their menu. Wendy's listened to the complaints of customers regarding the squareness of the burger and decided to make a slight change. In 2011, Wendy's rounded the edges of their burgers just a tiny bit to give them a less square appearance while still preserving the visibility of the meat. It also added a buttered bun and a thicker patty. Seems like Wendy's square hamburger is here to stay.