Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wendy's version of farmers' night

If the restaurant sported a different name, it’d be a non-event. What’s one more farmer addressing one more batch of consumers about what he grew for their local restaurant?

But because the place is Wendy’s, you have to marvel. Whether you label it local, seasonal or farm-fresh, food with a story is going mainstream. Independent restaurants have been the instigators. But now chains like Dave’s brainchild are clearly striving to catch up. Instead of farm to fork, it’s farm to fast-food.

In Wendy’s case, the concession to true food is the chain’s new Berry Almond Salad, made with fresh strawberries and blueberries. If you doubt it, Wendy’s has an expert witness ready to testify. Just press the Play button on a YouTube video to hear Jim Carter talk about how his Eclipse Farm in Oxnard, Calif., produces the strawberries.

Just as a farmer might tell a white-tablecloth crowd about the heirloom beets or heritage pork they’ll be savoring that night, Carter explains what makes a strawberry perfect and how his farm adjusts its processes accordingly.

He also stresses the freshness of what’s provided to Wendy’s. “From the picker’s hands, the fruit is in the cooler within an hour,” he says.

The video isn’t the first time a major fast-food chain has touted the fresh-from-the-farm aspect of its ingredients. Domino’s famously ran a commercial where a focus group watches the walls around it collapse to reveal they’re in a farm like the one that suppies the pizza chain.

McDonald’s drew heat with an ad campaign in the Pacific Northwest that stressed how many menu ingredients were taken right from that area.

Wendy’s, interestingly, didn’t blare the claims about its strawberries via broadcast media. Instead, it showcased the video on its Facebook page. You have to hunt a bit to find it on YouTube.

Even that modest approach seems to be in keeping with the food-with-a-story movement, where too much gloating is quick to be tagged as greenmailing.

Cynics are still going to slam Wendy’s, basically arguing that a fast-food chain can’t fit the movement. But I don’t see how they could deny that this is a major step in the right direction.

1 comment:

deniseleeyohn said...

for me the question isn't if wendy's CAN fit into this food movement, but rather it is if it SHOULD -- do wendys' customers value it enough to be worth the extra cost, logistical complexity, and inconsistency that results? i'm not so sure... -- denise lee yohn