In the competitive fast food industry, restaurants look for anything that sets them apart. For some, it's their secret menu, while others focus on having a value menu. Some have memorable ads or mascots. More and more, fast food chains work on having an authentic social media presence. But some fast food restaurants set themselves apart by making their food a little different, which is why Wendy's burger is square.
Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy's on November 15, 1969 in Columbus, Ohio. A year later, Wendy's introduced the modern drive thru, which Thomas called the "Pick Up Window" because he wanted to change the image from cruisers to something more family-friendly.
From the beginning, Wendy's had two menu items that set them apart from other growing fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger King. The first is the Frosty. The iconic frozen treat is a mix of chocolate and vanilla soft serve ice cream, and it's a favorite of pretty much everybody. (Especially french fry-dipping fans.)
The other iconic menu item is the Wendy's burger. And before you note that, yes, a burger chain's burger should be the star of the restaurant's menu, the difference between Wendy's burger and other chains is that the Wendy's burger is square.
Why are Wendy's burgers square on the Wendy's menu?
The shape of the burger patty was a deliberate choice, all the way back to the founding of the Wendy's restaurant. Thomas wanted a better hamburger than those served by other restaurants, and he decided the way to do it was to only use fresh, not frozen, beef patties.
To show that the restaurant didn't use frozen beef, Thomas made the hamburger patties a different shape. He chose the square shape to show that Wendy's does not cut corners when it comes to freshness. It's a visual representation of the chain's values, including "fresh, never frozen," and the founding idea that "Quality is our Recipe." Where's the Beef? It's in their burgers.
One advantage of the square shape is that, unlike round burgers on round burger buns, customers can actually see the square hamburger and know that it's juicy and fresh.
Wendy's sources their beef from North American cattle ranches; the hamburger patties are made at five locations across the United States and then sent on refrigerated trucks to Wendy's locations. Today, the square has evolved into a softer, more natural square, since some focus groups noted that the sharp-cornered square looked too processed.
Last year during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic many Wendy's locations actually sold out of their fresh beef products due to a beef shortage. Thankfully processing plants were able to fix the problem relatively quickly.
It doesn't matter which Wendy's burger you order, you will find a square patty. From the original burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mayonnaise and onion (now called Dave's Single) to classics like the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and fan favorites like the Baconator, to new burgers like the Barbecue Cheeseburger with crispy fried onions, all the burgers are square.
Square burgers definitely set Wendy's apart and it seems that customers are fond of the fresh, never frozen burger patties. In 2019, as the chain celebrated its 50th anniversary, Wendy's ranked sixth in the list of top quick-serve restaurants and second in the burger category.