Wendy’s stepped up its burger game in 2013, experimenting with different products, burger buns, and limited-time offers. Apparently, the experimentation paid off: The chain announced its fourth quarter earnings this morning, and shares are surging after the strong report.

By its fourth quarter, Wendy’s same-store restaurant sales increased by 1.9% in 2013, thanks in large part to their specialized pretzel buns. Manifested in their Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich, the pretzel bun proved hugely popular for the fast food chain. These new items were essentially the same as the chain’s existing counterpart options, but they featured a doughy soft pretzel-like bun.

Deemed “The Year of the Bun,” 2013 saw weird variations of classic burgers, including the ramen burger and a burger bun woven out of bacon, just to name a few. Wendy’s pretzel bun seems insignificant in comparison, but its popularity forced Wendy’s to continue its bun-centric product line. Throughout 2013, Wendy’s introduced multi-grain flatbread, pretzel, and brioche buns. Wendy’s continued its bun innovation with a Bacon Portabella Melt on a brioche bun.

Photo: An Immovable Feast

Wendy’s Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche. (Photo: An Immovable Feast)

Unfortunately, Wendy’s no longer sells the highly-praised pretzel bun products, a decision which has caused consumer backlash. Instead, the chain is now offering a Spicy Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich and a Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger. It is still TBD if these menu items will bring comparable success to the pretzel buns.

However, 2014 could prove to be a tricky year for Wendy’s and other fast food burger joints. Burger Business has set the 2014 burger forecast as “The Year of Freshness and Loyalty. Will Wendy’s be able to compete now that the burger tides have turned, or has Wendy’s peaked with their pretzel bun?

[via Business Insider]

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