• Wendy’s is giving away free four-piece chicken nuggets at its drive-thrus on Friday, no purchase necessary.
  • The deal is meant to get customers in the door as sales have slipped due to the pandemic. 
  • Wendy’s is also promoting family meals, as customers look to bulk up and make fewer trips out of the house. 
  • But deals like these pose new risks and challenges to Wendy’s workers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Wendy’s is giving away free four-piece chicken nuggets to anyone who comes to a Wendy’s drive-thru this Friday, the chain announced via Twitter on Monday.

The deal includes Wendy’s famous spicy nuggets.

—Wendy’s (@Wendys) April 21, 2020

Wendy’s is joining other chains, like Taco Bell, in offering promotions during the pandemic as sales have slipped. In an SEC filing from last month, Wendy’s saw same-restaurant sales down approximately 20% during the week ending March 22. 

Customers are one-stop shopping more during the pandemic, and that’s a trend that fast-food chain execs are taking note of. Customers don’t want to put themselves at risk, so they shop at fewer stores and buy more from each. Execs are banking on the sunk-cost fallacy to strike once customers enter the drive-thru line. While you’re here, why not buy more?

A Wendy’s worker, who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job, shared a memo regarding the company’s plans for family deals. The memo was from the chain’s chief marketing officer, Carl Loredo, addressed to its operators. The memo reads, “Interestingly, Google searches for ‘Family Meal Deals’ is up 250% in the first week of April. The bottom line is, we need to make ordering large meals easier for our customers and our crew by introducing NEW Family Meal Deal options.”

A Wendy’s spokesperson told Business Insider, “We have seen group/household orders become much more common during this time when so many are sheltering and eating together at home. This takes an existing ordering behavior in our restaurants and delivers additional value to our loyal customers as an added benefit without adding operational complexity to our restaurants.”

From a profit perspective, family meals make sense. But offers like these concern workers. 

The same Wendy’s worker said that his restaurant has imposed limits on staffing, meaning there are no more than four or five people on staff at any given time. That is not enough, he said, to deal with the large volumes of traffic these promotions bring in.

“The physical ordering of the meal will certainly be easier,” the Wendy’s worker said. “But fulfilling the order with four people and not enough food prepared for that large of an order is going to be harder. “

The spike in traffic from free food promotions also may put employees at increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Taco Bell received widespread employee backlash for its similar Taco Tuesday promotion. A Taco Bell employee who spoke with Business Insider in mid-April called the chain’s Taco Tuesday deal “probably the most painful and absurd thing they could’ve done during this time,” saying that the deal caused nearly twice as many people to come through the drive-thru. 

A Taco Bell representative told Business Insider that the chain is “very sensitive to our team members’ feedback, and we want them to know that we hear their concerns.”

The Wendy’s worker said that the promotions put both the customers and the workers at risk.

“It seems really counterintuitive to be bringing on new deals to try and bring in more customers when the current message is to stay home and stop the spread,” the Wendy’s worker told Business Insider. “I keep being told that the purpose behind doing these deals (free junior Frosty, free four-piece nuggets, etc.) is to show our customers that we care about them and want to support them, but are we really supporting them if we’re drawing them out of their houses to come interact with workers?”

“We always keep our restaurant crews top of mind when making decisions that may impact them or our restaurants,” the Wendy’s spokesperson said. “Currently, the vast majority of Wendy’s restaurants in the US are operating via drive-thru and delivery only. GroupNug (the name Wendy’s has given the nugget promotion), an offer that can only be redeemed via drive-thru, is designed to offer customers a safe, convenient, and contactless pick-me-up while our crew serves one car at a time.” 

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