Burger King Offers Free Whoppers as Wendy’s Gets Heat for Price Surging

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 10, 2024

Wendy’s ignited a firestorm online recently when it was revealed that the fast food chain was looking to adopt surge pricing at its locations. This dynamic pricing would increase the price of food and meals during busy times.

Wendy’s faced swift backlash from those online after this news went viral. Now, Burger King is stepping up to troll their fast food rival — and offer customers free Whoppers.

Wendy’s Dynamic Pricing

When on an earnings call in February, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner discussed a new dynamic pricing scenario that the fast food chain was looking to start rolling out.

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A Wendy’s building lit up at night.

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Dynamic pricing — also called surge pricing — results in fluctuating prices based on demand, time, and location. Theoretically, this would mean that if you go to Wendy’s during its busy lunch rush hour, your combo meal would cost more than it would during slower periods.

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Surge Pricing in 2025

According to Tanner in this call, Wendy’s locations would begin to roll out this new model sometime in 2025, at the very earliest.

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A Wendy’s fast food restaurant with cars in its parking lot and underneath a cloudy blue sky in the daytime.

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Surge pricing isn’t new to consumers. Rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber have long used dynamic pricing, which fluctuates car ride prices depending on demand. Ticketmaster also uses this pricing model. However, Wendy’s would be the first large fast-food chain to implement this type of pricing.

Wendy’s Backlash

Almost immediately upon this news being released, people took to social media to call out Wendy’s for moving to a surge pricing model.

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People overwhelmingly don’t like the idea of fast food restaurants charging the public more money just because they visit Wendy’s when it’s busy. It prompted many people to declare that they just wouldn’t visit Wendy’s anymore.

Burger King Capitalizes on Backlash

Burger King, a main rival of Wendy’s, quickly decided to capitalize on the public backlash. In a news release, Burger King announced that they would offer customers a free Whopper or Impossible Whopper with all purchases of $3 or more.

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A Burger King meal on a tray, including a drink, fries, ketchup, and a wrapped burger.

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This deal would last until Friday, March 1. Customers would also have to order these meals through the Burger King app.

Burger King’s Statement About Wendy’s

In case people wouldn’t realize that they were trolling Wendy’s, Burger King explicitly mentioned the idea of price surging in their statement.

A hazy photo of a Burger King building at night, with cars driving into its drive-thru, its lights lit up.

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“Surge pricing? Well, that’s new. Good thing the only thing surging at BK is our flame!” Burger King’s statement said. The company also had a “no urge to surge” promo that further mocked Wendy’s.

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Others Call Out Wendy’s

People online criticized Wendy’s for surge pricing. Burger King quickly stepped into the ring to capitalize off of it. Regular people and Burger King aren’t the only ones to blast Wendy’s, though. Politicians have also publicly criticized them.

Elizabeth Warren wearing green, talking into a microphone, against a black and blue background.

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was fast to call out Wendy’s. “It’s price gouging plain and simple, and American families have had enough,” Warren wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Chili’s Also Criticized Wendy’s

While Burger King offered free Whoppers for a limited time, Chili’s Grill & Bar took to X to support customers who were upset by Wendy’s decision to use price-surging models.

A Chili’s restaurant at night, with some lights on, in front of an empty parking lot.

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On X, Chili’s created a fast food support group and encouraged customers to say why Chili’s is better than fast food. They also said they’d buy 100 people a 3 For Me.

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Wendy’s Quickly Issued a Statement

When it became clear that the public backlash was becoming huge, Wendy’s quickly issued a statement and attempted to walk back its CEO’s comments.

A close-up of the Wendy’s logo and typography on a red building.

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According to Wendy’s statement, its fast food locations “would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most.” They also stated that this dynamic pricing model would allow them to “change the menu offerings at different times of day and offer discounts and value offers to our customers more easily, particularly in the slower times of day.”

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Wendy’s Said Media Misreported

In a slight way, Wendy’s also called out the media and said that what their CEO said was misconstrued by some reports.

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This statement said their dynamic pricing plans were “misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest at our restaurants.” They say this isn’t what they intended to do — though many still have their doubts.

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Wendy’s Is Now Offering Free Food

After its immense backlash, Wendy’s started to try to change the narrative — by adapting what Burger King did and also offering their customers free food.

A Wendy’s wrapped burger, fries, and drink on a surface.

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This new game plan began on February 28, when Wendy’s announced they would offer their customers free Cinnabons on the 29th for Leap Day. As many food places offered free items on Leap Day, this Wendy’s event very well could’ve been planned months in advance. Of course, people online have pointed out the interesting timing of it all.

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Get a $1 Burger From Wendy’s

Wendy’s also announced a new March-Madness-themed burger deal soon after the price surging backlash. Customers can get a Dave’s Single burger for $1, or a Dave’s Double for $2 when using the Wendy’s app, until April 10.

A modern-looking Wendy’s fast food restaurant in the daytime underneath a blue sky.

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While this deal likely was in the works for a while, many people still feel that the fast food chain is attempting to regain some support from the public.

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