Wendy’s to Overtake Burger King for Fast Food’s No. 2 Spot

Wendy’s (NYSE:WEN) is set to overtake Burger King (NYSE:BKC) to become the second-largest U.S. fast-food chain in sales behind industry behemoth McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD). Since Wendy’s was founded in 1969, there has been no reordering of the industry-leading trio — that is, until now.

Hot Feature: Walgreen Numbers Down Due to Express Scripts Dispute

Americans are expected to spend more than $175 billion on fast food this year, up about 3 percent from 2010. Wendy’s same-store-sales in the U.S are forecast to rise 1.1 percent this year, while Burger King’s U.S. and Canada same-store sales are expected to drop 3.9 percent, according to market-research firm Technomic Inc.

Technomic’s figures mean Wendy’s sales are on track to be $8.42 billion this year, $53 million higher than Burger King’s sales. However, the outcome won’t become clear until both companies report fourth-quarter results early next year.

Most notable about the shift is that Wendy’s has gained on Burger King without opening more locations. Wendy’s number of restaurants in the U.S. has remained flat at roughly 5,800, well below Burger King’s approximately 7,200 U.S. restaurants.

Wendy’s fortunes have improved since investor Nelson Peltz’s Triarc Cos. bought the chain in 2008, broadening its menu, changing the lettuce in its salads, softening the edges on its square burgers, and also raising some prices.

Wendy’s has also benefited from weakness at Burger King, which analysts say has suffered in recent years from a series of management and ownership changes, as well as a lack of menu development, and an overall reliance on young customers at a time when high unemployment has left much of America’s youth without the money to spend.

However, Burger King spokesman Miguel Piedra says the company is “focused on driving strong expansion in its many markets around the world,” and that it “will strongly position the brand” to remain the No. 2 burger chain worldwide. Burger King has nearly 12,400 restaurants worldwide, almost double the number of Wendy’s restaurants around the world.

Don’t Miss: Which 5 Companies Benefit the Most from Consumer Procrastination?