As far as fast-food salad goes, Wendy’s (WEN) considers itself a leader. The burger chain added two salads to the permanent menu in March—Asian Cashew Chicken Salad and BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad—and for the summer it’s offering a strawberry salad. In an earnings call earlier this month, Wendy’s chief executive, Emil Brolick, named these leafy dishes among things that helped boost its same store sales by 3.3 percent in the second quarter.
Such news might lead one to think that a veg-olution is going on in fast food. Viva la salad. But data from researcher NPD show that salad remains a small part of restaurant sales. This is especially true at burger fast-food chains, where in the 12 months ended June, only 2.3 percent of orders included a salad main dish, and 1.3 percent of orders included a side salad. That’s a lower rate than in all fast-food restaurants and in restaurants overall. It equals almost 500 million burger restaurant orders with main or side salads.
Wendy’s would not provide data about the share of its sales coming from salad but tells Businessweek.com that the figure is higher than at burger restaurants in general.
Salad sales started to rebound only in the past year, thanks primarily to an uptick in side salads, the NPD statistics indicate. Wendy’s main salad sales increased 5 percent in the 12 months ended May, according to the company.
NPD predicts salad consumption will increase with Gen Z (newborns to those age 23). Based on current trends, the future of burger chain salad likely lies in entrées. These customers prefer salads as their main dish, not as a side, because, let’s face it, even those trying to eat better still love fries.