One Free Insight for Wendy’s New CMO…

A restaurant in the nighttime is not the same place as it was a few hours ago, in the daylight.

Maybe Mr. Craig Bahner, Wendy’s new CMO, doesn’t need any of my insights.

He certainly isn’t asking my advice.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen first hand when a brilliant, enthusiastic, likable packaged goods guy (Mr. Bahner comes from Procter & Gamble; I assume he’s likable—I don’t actually know) arrives at a restaurant’s HQ, full of high spirits and big plans to apply his craft: there’s a huge abyss between getting products to fly, fly, fly from retail shelves, and keeping a restaurant brand relevant to a motley pastiche of shifting potential customer demographics.

Those customers change from daypart to daypart. They don’t want the same thing at 5:00 o’clock as they do at 11:00 a.m. Or 11:00 p.m.  Some of the customers deliberately avoid the restaurant when a different demographic is likely to be there, ordering early dinner and walking slowly to their tables wearing cardigan sweaters and speaking sharply to their grandkids, or showing up in mufflerless cars and turning the place into a noisy American Graffiti-esque hangout.

Spaghetti sauce or detergent basically holds still, does one thing well, and can be controlled. The people who might use it are a predictable bunch.

Restaurants are slippery, mutable institutions, and, Mr. Bahner, they might just freak you out/blow your mind/make you so angry you kick a dog.

(Note to Bahner family dog: scramble under the dining room table if The Alpha comes home muttering about dayparts and inconsistency of service.)

Because, oh, wait, here’s a second free insight: that detergent I spoke of? It doesn’t fail to show up for work, or get in a bad mood because it got a ticket on the way to the shelf, or not do as good a job adding in bleach crystals on Friday as it does on Wednesday.

Good luck, Mr. Bahner.