Wendy’s customers report restaurants limiting, pulling burgers from menus due to meat shortage

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(CNN) — The national meat shortage has come for Wendy’s. The fast food chain says some menu items are unavailable, and one analyst estimates nearly one in five of Wendy’s restaurants are out of beef.

Around 1,000, or 18%, of Wendy’s 5,500 US restaurants are not serving any hamburgers or other meat-based items, according to an analysis of online menus at every location conducted by financial firm Stephens. Wendy’s is “more exposed” to the shortage sparked by the coronavirus pandemic because of its reliance on fresh beef compared with its competitors, the note said.

Wendy’s said some of its menu items might be “temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment.” The company said its delivery schedule remains unchanged, but supply has been tight because beef suppliers across North America face production challenges during the pandemic.

Many meat suppliers have temporarily closed their factories because workers are falling ill from Covid-19.

“We’re working diligently to minimize the impact to our customers and restaurants, and continue to work with our supplier partners to monitor this closely,” a Wendy’s spokesperson said.

The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings Wednesday.

The severity of Wendy’s shortages depends on the “geographic nature of processing plant closures,” wrote Stephens analyst James Rutherford. In states such as Ohio, Michigan and New York, around 30% of Wendy’s are out of fresh meat. Other states, like Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana, aren’t affected.

Wendy’s online menus have shifted in recent days: They are emphasizing chicken sandwiches, Rutherford said in his note to investors.

Rutherford doesn’t expect the beef shortages to hurt Wendy’s profits if the shortage is fixed quickly. He also noted Wendy’s newly launched breakfast menu is “highly profitable.”

McDonald’s and Burger King didn’t immediately respond to comment on whether they’re experiencing shortages.

Many Wendy’s customers have taken to social media, reporting restaurants not offering burgers or limiting the numbers sold.

In Ohio, grocery chains like Giant Eagle and Kroger are limiting purchases on ground beef and other meat items.

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