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Wendy's may be home to fresh beef but chicken grows in importance: CEO

Brian Sozzi

Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas put his restaurant chain on the map by promoting fresh beef used to concoct giant hamburgers. The next generation of leaders at the company are now making their mark with chicken, in a nation seeking out ever healthier alternatives.

The fast-food chain’s second quarter results positively surprised Wall Street this week in large part powered by a range of updated chicken sandwiches. Wendy’s (WEN) dropped three new chicken sandwiches in the quarter, taking aim at several new releases in the market from rivals McDonald’s and Burger King.

Wendy’s second quarter adjusted earnings came in at 18 cents a share, beating Wall Street analyst forecasts by a penny. North America same-store sales rose 1.4%, slightly ahead of consensus. While still down, Wendy’s executives called out improved traffic trends versus the first quarter, likely due to the chicken push.

The stock rose more than 8% on Wednesday following the results.

“We are selling a lot of hamburgers still, but chicken is right in there too,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor tells Yahoo Finance. “We tried to add a little more chicken to the lineup last year with a chicken tender lineup, we just didn’t see enough movement to keep that on the menu — so we are really focused on our core sandwich.”

Wendy’s will continue to stay chicken minded in the coming months.

Helped by a viral tweet from Chance the Rapper in late June, Wendy’s will bring back its popular spicy chicken nuggets on August 19.

“Chance the Rapper set us up several weeks ago — that [release] will be big for us,” says Penegor.

Also potentially big: Wendy’s investor day on October 10.

The company is likely to share more aggressive international store opening plans at the event. Sources Yahoo Finance have talked with believe Wendy’s will unveil a sizable stock repurchase plan given its growing cash pile that now stands at about $426 million.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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