Why Wendy’s Asked Pandora to Help Elevate Its Brand Experience With Playlists

Curated music to keep the fast-food company consistent

Wendy's and Pandora partnered on playlists last fall. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Wendy’s executives are on a mission to elevate the consumer experience of the brand. That’s why, last fall, it teamed up with Pandora to create personalized playlists for its restaurants based off consumer data.

“What I thought was a meeting to talk about how we were going to help Wendy’s sell more hamburgers, fries and soft drinks took a slightly different turn,” said Steven Kritzman, svp at Pandora. “[Instead we got] into a conversation around the consumer music experience in the store.”

After examining data points including location, demographics, listening habits and purchase behavior, Pandora created five curated stations for Wendy’s. The playlists—Wendy’s Fresh Country, Wendy’s Fresh Hits, Wendy’s Fresh Latin Hits, Wendy’s R&B and Wendy’s Fresh Indie Pop—are updated every eight weeks and change depending on the region.

“We have been driving the evolution of the Wendy’s brand and really thinking about the overall consumer experience,” said Carl Loredo, vp at Wendy’s. “A big part of it is driving consistency.”

Loredo highlighted that, considering Wendy’s dropped a mixtape last year, “the last thing we want is for someone to walk into one of our restaurants and not experience what we would want to be putting forward from a Wendy’s brand.”

The playlists are already in use in over 800 restaurants, and the companies anticipate that, by the end of 2019, more than 4,000 restaurants will use them. (Wendy’s, like a number of fast-food restaurants, uses a franchisee model. With this approach, franchisees can opt in to use the playlists.) Each playlist has 200 to 225 “upbeat and fresh” songs, per the companies.

It makes sense, given the fact that changing the sound of a restaurant can impact consumer behavior. Per The Gallup Organization, 86 percent of customers said that music in-store “adds to the atmosphere and influences their purchasing decisions.”

“A big part of this was really our ability to leverage our data and what we know about who’s listening where based on their geography, their demographic, etc.,” said Kritzman. “It’s based on what we know about who the Wendy’s consumer is and kind of bundling that into our overall data set when we were creating the playlists. That allowed us to curate these stations in a very unique way.”

“You want to make sure that as you walk in you’re not listening to 1970s classics when the expectation is to be up to date,” Loredo added. “Our social voice is about being real and knowledgeable about our consumer and what’s going on in trending in the world, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.