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  4. I tried Wendy's new $3 breakfast and McDonald's famous morning menu, and the winner was clear.

I tried Wendy's new $3 breakfast and McDonald's famous morning menu, and the winner was clear.

I tried Wendy's new $3 breakfast and McDonald's famous morning menu, and the winner was clear.
The items in the Biggie Bundles breakfast deal.Nancy Luna/Insider
  • Wendy's introduced a two-for-$3 Biggie Bundles meal on August 22.
  • The breakfast value meal features four choices, including two types of biscuit sandwiches.

Wendy's launched on August 22 the two-for-$3 Biggie Bundles breakfast deal — a solid inflation-busting value offer that should put McDonald's, the king of fast food breakfast, on notice.

For $3, Wendy's customers can get two of the following items: a sausage biscuit, an egg and cheese biscuit, small seasoned potatoes, or a medium hot coffee. Essentially, each item is a $1.50 each.

I've been covering the fast-food wars for 18 years as a business journalist based in Southern California. Every year, chains try to one-up each other with their specialty deals and wacky limited-item specials. And I wasn't sure if this was just another publicity stunt.

But I set out to compare Wendy's to McDonald's, which has long been considered the king of fast-food breakfast. I bought the equivalent items and compared them on taste, price, and presentation.

I admit I went into this exercise thinking McDonald's, which has been serving breakfast since 1977, would have the advantage of taste and presentation. But I also thought Wendy's, which launched breakfast in 2020, could win on price if the food was halfway edible.

It turns out the contest wasn't even close.

Here's what I discovered.

Fast-food breakfast has long been dominated by McDonald's.

Fast-food breakfast has long been dominated by McDonald
A McDonald's Egg McMuffin is displayed at a McDonald's restaurant on July 23, 2015 in Fairfield, California.      Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 1975, McDonald's launched the Egg McMuffin nationally after testing the breakfast sandwich for a few years. The success of the Egg McMuffin led McDonald's to roll out its first breakfast line in US stores in 1977.

The menu included the Egg McMuffin, hotcakes, toasted English muffins, scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and a Danish.

Along with Dunkin' and Starbucks, McDonald's continues to be a fan favorite, the market-research firm Technomic found in recent consumer data. Wendy's hasn't really gained much ground on McDonald's since introducing breakfast in 2020.

"If Wendy's is enjoying growth during the breakfast daypart, I would argue that they are not taking breakfast share from McDonald's," Robert Byrne, the director of consumer and industry insights at Technomic, told Insider. "Our data suggests that they are growing more competitive with other options such as c-stores or at-home morning occasions. I would also suggest they may be chipping away at more expensive breakfast players, such as Panera."

Source: McDonald's and Technomic.

But in recent years, brands such as Wendy's, Burger King, and Taco Bell have tried to steal market share from the Golden Arches.

But in recent years, brands such as Wendy
The breakfast promotion at Wendy's.      Mary Meisenzahl/Insider

Wendy's is serious about beating McDonald's at breakfast. The chain came out fighting when it launched breakfast in 2020.

Fans could "say goodbye to their tired, old, stale breakfast and instead get their hands on a selection of fresh, craveable, bold new morning options," the chain said in 2020.

Items on the debut breakfast menu included the Breakfast Baconator, Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit, and Frosty-ccino.

While the pandemic forced some restaurant chains such as Taco Bell to put breakfast on pause, three years later, Wendy's is still betting big on breakfast. They've added more items and have been pushing value deals to entice consumers.

Today, breakfast sales at Wendy's account for 7% of gross sales, Technomic indicates, citing the chain's latest franchise disclosure document. And that's on the low end, data from the restaurant-consulting firm Foodservice IP suggests. Fast-food breakfast sales typically range between 5% to 20% of total sales, the firm says.

Wendy's latest push is a two-for-$3 breakfast bundle.

Wendy's two-for-$3 meal bundle includes these choices: a sausage biscuit, an egg and cheese biscuit, small seasoned potatoes, or a medium hot coffee.

Wendy
Nancy Luna/Insider

The two-for-$3 Biggie Bundles meal launched August 22. Customers can create their own 2-item breakfast meal from the following four items: a sausage biscuit, an egg and cheese biscuit, small seasoned potatoes, or a medium hot coffee for $3.

This breakfast value deal, available for a limited time, is a tweak from a similar promotion in March.

Source: Wendy's.

I started my morning grub taste test at a Wendy's in Southern California.

I started my morning grub taste test at a Wendy
Nancy Luna/Insider

Going in, I felt like this was going to be a battle of the biscuit. My instinct was that Wendy's would serve up the better biscuit.

I instantly had trouble ordering at the cash register. The employee didn't seem to understand when I asked about the Biggie Bundles deal. A note to Wendy's: Explain your marketing campaigns to restaurant-level workers.

I instantly had trouble ordering at the cash register. The employee didn
Nancy Luna/Insider

I wanted to order every item in the bundled meal deal that equaled $3, but the cashier didn't seem to understand my request.

When I mentioned "Biggie Bundles," she was clueless. Finally, we settled on the following two-for-$3 orders: the sausage biscuit and the egg & cheese biscuit for $3; and the coffee and seasoned potatoes for $3.

I didn't order any other combinations, but obviously, someone can also order a sausage biscuit and potatoes for $3 or a cheese biscuit and coffee for $3, etc.

First up, the sausage biscuit. This is a no-nonsense, as-plain-as-it-gets breakfast sandwich.

First up, the sausage biscuit. This is a no-nonsense, as-plain-as-it-gets breakfast sandwich.
Nancy Luna/Insider

This is a sausage stuffed in a flaky biscuit. I love how the sausage is square; a very on-brand move for Wendy's to mimic the shape of its famous beef patties.

The sausage patty was flavorful. I could taste a mix of herbs and spices such as black pepper and sage, leaving a spicy aftertaste. The sausage worked well with the biscuit.

It wasn't a golden-brown biscuit, but it had the right texture. It was flaky and buttery on the outside and moist on the inside.

Wendy's told Insider that the "biscuits come from a trusted supplier, and are baked fresh throughout the morning in each restaurant. They are made with real buttermilk for a buttery and flaky bite."

Hot take on value: The regular price of an à la carte sausage biscuit at the restaurant I visited in Orange, California was $2.99. So, at the current value deal, this sandwich was essentially marked down 50%.

The egg and cheese biscuit came next. The most noticeable part of this sandwich was the paper-thin egg it was stuffed with.

The egg and cheese biscuit came next. The most noticeable part of this sandwich was the paper-thin egg it was stuffed with.
Nancy Luna/Insider

The egg looked like a round Egg McMuffin-inspired egg if someone had stepped on it. It was super flat.

The egg was topped with a bright orange slice of cheese that wasn't melted. The egg and the cheese flopped over the edges of the biscuit, which was visually appealing. It made me feel like I was getting a hefty sandwich despite the paper-thin egg.

Hot take on value: The regular price of an à la carte egg and cheese biscuit at the restaurant I visited in Orange was $3.19. The bundle meal offers big savings as I saved about $1.69 by buying it as part of the deal.

I'm not a fan of diced or wedge breakfast potatoes. But the Wendy's crispy seasoned potatoes did elevate the breakfast meal.

I
Nancy Luna/Insider

I'd much rather have hash browns for breakfast. But the Wendy's seasoned potatoes were quite tasty and thankfully not very greasy. I love my potatoes crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

These didn't quite deliver this flavor profile, as the wedge potatoes were very thin.

Hot take on value: The Wendy's potato sleeve contained 20 potato wedges for a cost of $1.99. By ordering the wedges as part of the two-for-$3 bundle, you save about 50 cents.

After drinking coffee for more than 30 years, I gave it up in December. So, tasting coffee for the first time in months probably skewed my reaction.

After drinking coffee for more than 30 years, I gave it up in December. So, tasting coffee for the first time in months probably skewed my reaction.
Nancy Luna/Insider

I gave up coffee in early December 2022 after a bout with COVID-19. Even though it's been months since I've sipped on a hot cup of Joe, I know what good coffee should taste like.

I used to drink about two to three cups of coffee or espresso in the morning. And we're talking the good stuff — Lavazza and Illycaffè.

I found Wendy's coffee passable for fast-food java. But it had a slightly burned taste. It could be a brewing issue or a sourcing issue. Wendy's sources its beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, according to its website.

Hot take on value: A medium coffee cost $1.79 at the restaurant I visited. Of all four items on the bundle list, this one had the least savings at about 29 cents.

Overall, I was surprisingly delighted with the Wendy's breakfast value options. The biscuits were flaky, and the crispy potatoes tasted like a side order you'd get at a full-service breakfast diner. It elevated the meal compared to a standard hash brown.

Overall, I was surprisingly delighted with the Wendy
Wendy's

This is a solid fast-food value deal because you save a lot of money, and the food quality is decent.

I recommend this menu hack: Buy the two biscuit sandwiches for $3 and add the sausage to the egg and cheese biscuit. There's a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit on the Wendy's menu for $3.99. So, you'll save about $1 if you do it this way.

Then save the second biscuit for breakfast the next morning. Just add some jam and butter.

I drove less than two miles to McDonald's to try and replicate the meal I had at Wendy's.

I drove less than two miles to McDonald
Nancy Luna/Insider

I walked into a very modern McDonald's that had only two cash registers for taking orders. Only one worker was taking orders at 9 a.m.

Unlike Wendy's, where I was the only customer, this McDonald's had about a handful of people in the dining room.

I decided to order from one of three kiosks in the store, so I could take my time with my order.

The kiosks were easy to navigate, making for a frictionless ordering process compared to my Wendy's experience with the cashier who had trouble understanding my order.

The kiosks were easy to navigate, making for a frictionless ordering process compared to my Wendy
Nancy Luna/Insider

I filtered for biscuit sandwiches. I found a sausage biscuit menu item — the same as the one at Wendy's — and I ordered it.

McDonald's doesn't have a biscuit cheese and egg sandwich. The only thing that came close was the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich. So I ordered that and removed the bacon.

The kiosk made this customization very easy, but please note the sandwich still cost the same, $4.19, even with the bacon removed. I then ordered a medium coffee and a hash brown.

Hot take on value: Right away, it's obvious how cheap Wendy's new breakfast deal is. My McDonald's check was $12.24. For $6 plus tax, I got nearly the same four items by taking advantage of the two-for-$3 Biggie Bundles deal at Wendy's. To be fair, the McDonald's I visited was offering a two-for-$5.50 breakfast deal that included two Sausage McMuffins with egg.

The first thing I tried was the sausage biscuit. In terms of presentation, it looked better than Wendy's as the biscuit had a beautiful golden crust. But, unfortunately, it was spongy and flavorless.

The first thing I tried was the sausage biscuit. In terms of presentation, it looked better than Wendy
Nancy Luna/insider

The biscuit and sausage looked limp like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours.

The biscuit was not flaky at all. When I bit into the sandwich, the biscuit felt rubbery and spongy. It was thick and absorbent. I probably could have used it to wipe up a coffee spill.

The sausage was greasy and flavorless like it had just been thawed from frozen, heated up in a microwave, and slapped onto the biscuit. Overall, it was disappointing.

Hot take on value: The sausage biscuit at the McDonald's in Orange cost $2.19. The same sandwich at Wendy's cost $2.99. But, if you order Wendy's sausage biscuit as part of the two-for-$3 value deal, it's essentially $1.50.

The Egg and Cheese Biscuit came with a beautiful folded egg. Sadly, that was the best part of this sandwich.

The Egg and Cheese Biscuit came with a beautiful folded egg.  Sadly, that was the best part of this sandwich.
Nancy Luna/Insider

Unlike the Wendy's biscuit, the cheese on this sandwich was fully melted on the biscuit.

Instead of being layered with a freshly cracked Egg McMuffin-style round egg, the biscuit came with a beautifully folded scrambled egg. It was quite delicious. It made me want to take a second bite.

But the egg didn't make up for flaws in the rest of the sandwich. The cheese was so overly melted that it seeped into the spongy layers of the biscuit. Again, the biscuit should be flaky and it wasn't.

Hot take on value: This is a pricey breakfast grub at $4.19. But this sandwich comes with two slices of bacon. I removed the bacon to duplicate the cheese and egg biscuit at Wendy's, but McDonald's didn't adjust the price. At Wendy's, this sandwich cost $1.50 when included in the new two-for-$3 deal. The à la carte price at the Wendy's in Orange was $3.19.

I am a hash brown freak. So I was looking forward to savoring a classic McDonald's hash brown after the letdown experience of the biscuit sandwiches. But the hash brown was terrible.

I am a hash brown freak. So I was looking forward to savoring a classic McDonald
Nancy Luna/Insider

I don't know what went wrong here because McDonald's usually nails it when it comes to its hash browns and french fries. But, this pathetic little hash brown, which cost $2.79, was disgusting and super greasy.

It made me think someone in the kitchen hadn't changed the oil in the fryer for days. It left a metallic taste in my mouth.

Hot take on value: Wendy's seasoned potatoes are superior to the McDonald's hash browns in taste and price. Even if you don't take advantage of the Wendy's two-for-$3 value deal, the seasoned potatoes at Wendy's are 80 cents cheaper than the McDonald's hash browns.

McDonald's coffee tasted the same as Wendy's — bitter and burned.

McDonald
Two medium coffees from Wendy's and McDonald's.      Nancy Luna/Insider

Even though I stopped drinking coffee last December, I still consider myself a java aficionado. The best coffee comes from organic beans that are roasted in such a way that coffee is robust and full of flavor. Good coffee can be sipped without accouterments such as sugar and cream.

Both Wendy's and McDonald's needed lots of sugar and cream to make it drinkable.

Hot take on value: If you need to have coffee with your breakfast, Wendy's offers the better value. A medium McDonald's coffee cost $2.19. Wendy's à la carte coffee cost $1.79, but you'll save even more if you buy Wendy's coffee as part of the two-for-$3 breakfast deal.

Overall, Wendy's exceeded my expectations. I thought the more experienced breakfast player, McDonald's, would provide me with a higher quality meal. But I was wrong.

Overall, Wendy
The items in the Biggie Bundles breakfast deal.      Nancy Luna/Insider

Wendy's hands-down won on flavor, value, and presentation.

McDonald's prices were expensive for delivering such poor-quality food. They really need to improve their biscuit game, especially if they want to compete with Wendy's and Chick-fil-A.

The only good thing about the McDonald's meal was the folded egg.

Wendy's inflation-busting two-for-$3 deal is a great value, and it should entice McDonald's breakfast fans to give them a shot.

Tim Powell, a restaurant consultant in Chicago, agreed with me.

"Wendy's has really enhanced its breakfast offerings and one could argue they are superior to McDonald's especially when you factor in price and wait times," Powell, a managing principal at the consulting and insights firm Foodservice IP, said. "I think McDonlad's might have slipped on the breakfast focus post-Covid."

Before I left McDonald's, I pulled up the Starbucks app and ordered a chai latte. I had to cleanse my palate after the awful McDonald's experience.

Before I left McDonald
Nancy Luna/Insider

The Starbucks app is so easy to use compared to other fast-food apps. Within seconds, I was able to order a hot chai latte with oat milk before leaving the parking lot of McDonald's.

I picked up my order at a local Starbucks less than five minutes later and drank it while writing this review.

Are you a fast-food insider with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at nluna@insider.com.




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