The Real Reason Wendy's Is Pulling Hamburgers From Menus

What's your go-to order from Wendy's? Besides one of their delicious Frostys, of course. If you want something besides dessert, what do you get? A Dave's Double, a Baconator, a Bacon Jalapeno Cheeseburger? And you wouldn't want to forget a cup of Wendy's yummy chili on the side. Let's face it — if what you were really in the mood for was a chicken sandwich, you'd probably be sitting in the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A or Popeyes instead. (And nobody ever really wants a fast-food salad — heck, they're not even that healthy.)

But wait, what's that note posted outside certain Wendy's locations — no burgers? No chili? How could this be? Well, might we ask, in the words of Wendy's most famous pitchwoman, "Where's the beef?" And the answer may be: still on the hoof, in some cases, or else in the deep freeze as the meat supply pipeline experiences some serious complications due to COVID-19.

The meat shortage has everyone wondering: Where's the beef?

Bloomberg reports that, while there is still an ample supply of meat in cold storage, the fresh meat supply may be getting critically low as several major North American meat processing plants have shut down due to being directly affected by the pandemic. As it turns out, conditions on crowded processing lines are particularly conducive to the spread of the virus, and hundreds of meat plant workers have been infected.

There have also been additional complications along the supply chain with meat producers who once supplied restaurants trying to shift more of their output to supermarkets. While much of the meat supply had been diverted from the restaurant industry toward groceries, the possible pending re-opening of full-service restaurants has led to supply-chain snafus that are affecting the meat supply not only at restaurants but also retailers, to the point where even Costco has recently had to implement limits on the amount of meat its members are allowed to purchase.

So what can you still order at Wendy's?

If you wake up early enough to get to Wendy's while they're still serving breakfast, most of those items should be on the menu since none contain beef. In fact, if you just can't live without a Baconator, you may still be able to get one — the Breakfast Baconator, made with a sausage patty instead of the lunchtime version that has beef. 

If you're having Wendy's for lunch or dinner, your choices may be more limited. Salads are still an option, except the Taco Salad, and you can still get baked potatoes and fries — even cheese and bacon-topped. The chili-cheese varieties, however, are likely not an option. Chicken, of course, is still available, both in Wendy's so-so sandwiches and disappointing, overpriced nuggets. What Wendy's does not seem to offer at this point (although that may be subject to change pretty soon, if meat shortages continue) is a plant-based burger. They did introduce their "Plantiful" patty to the Canadian market in February, according to the Vancouver Courier, but it's not yet on the U.S. menu.

Of course, there's always dessert! While the cookies don't ever look too inspiring, the Frosty Cookie Sundae has promise, and then, of course, there's the best fast food dessert you can get — Wendy's justifiably famous Frosty. (Pro tip: the Black and White, or chocolate/vanilla mix, is the best.) In fact, if you order plain, cheese-free fries and dip them in your Frosty, you can consider that a meal in itself.

What will the meat shortage mean for Wendy's future?

So what does the beef shortage mean for Wendy's, a chain that has made such a point of using fresh, never-frozen beef? While it's too early to tell, there's no denying this problem has come at a bad time for the chain. Restaurant Business reports that Wendy's largest franchise-holder, NPC International, has been considering a restructuring that might lead to a bankruptcy filing. While this would not affect all Wendy's locations, it still might come as a blow to the brand.

Also, the beef shortage hasn't touched all of Wendy's restaurants, but CNN Business reports that some 18 percent of Wendy's 5,500 restaurants nationwide are currently beef-free, citing locations in Ohio, Michigan, and New York. Time adds that at least some of the chain's California locations are also without beef for the time being. Since at this point no one can project when the meatpacking industry will be back to business as usual, it looks like it's time for Wendy's to stop trash-talking the other competitors in the great (and never officially ended) Chicken Sandwich Wars, and instead step up their own sandwich game ASAP.