Is Bird Flu a Big Threat to Big Business?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", February 2, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

Watch "Your World w/Cavuto" weekdays at 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, KFC has already shut its restaurants in Thailand as a result of this scare. Earlier, I caught up with Wendy's chairman and CEO, Jack Schuessler, to see if he's as vulnerable in Asia.


JACK SCHUESSLER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WENDY'S: We've had no problems whatsoever. Plus, we have such a wide variety of menu. We have hamburgers and salads and so on. So it really doesn't affect us.

CAVUTO: Do you notice any early response to any of the chicken portions of that menu? That people are either staying away from it or are concerned?

SCHUESSLER: No. Again, we have a wide variety of menu. And we just haven't seen anything.

CAVUTO: Yes. So I wonder, too, if I can push this one more question...


CAVUTO: ... that would KFC's problems, clearly not of their own making, have any benefit to you? Would people be saying, I'm avoiding anything change related, I'm going to go to a burger place like Wendy's?

SCHUESSLER: Well, we have great hamburgers, so I'd like to say they're coming to Wendy's because of the great hamburgers and salads. So again, I think it's too early to tell. But if anything happens, we have such a diverse menu it doesn't make a difference.

CAVUTO: I meant to ask you about this menu in light of this low-carb craze going on here, Atkins and South Beach and all the others.

Has it had any effect on you? Have you been tempted to say, gee, maybe we ought to do the Hardees thing and give people burgers wrapped in lettuce or something like that?

SCHUESSLER: Well, we don't want to drip over their ties and suits and clothes. So what we're going to do is test a protein combo. And we're going to have a single or a double in a little dish that you put lettuce and tomato and cut with a knife and fork.

CAVUTO: But you need the knife and fork?

SCHUESSLER: Yes, I think you've got to.

... And then we're going to have a Caesar side salad, and the dressing has one gram of carbs. So we think we're going to meet the consumer needs. We also have four combos under 10 grams of fat for the other population that looks at fat. So I think...

CAVUTO: What do you make of your competition, the Subways and some of the others, that have offered all of the low-gram fare, some of it not so low-gram fare, actually. Is it stealing your thunder? Do you feel like you're the odd man out?

SCHUESSLER: No, we really don't, because what we always look for is how do we continue to be better against ourselves, not what the competition has done. And we have had 16 years of same-store sales increase in a row. So I think we pay the customers pretty well.

CAVUTO: But I would imagine the low-carb environment helps you anyway.


CAVUTO: People don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out, if you don't want the carbs, take the bun off. Right? Are a lot doing that?

SCHUESSLER: Yes. And a lot of people are doing it. The dogs in the car, they're giving the bun to the dog.

CAVUTO: Yes. So you are actually seeing signs of that?

SCHUESSLER: Oh, yes. And we have for a couple years.

CAVUTO: Because I was thinking, you guys have the chili salad. If you took the beans out of that, you're under the gram count right there, right?

SCHUESSLER: Yes, exactly.

CAVUTO: But you're not going to take the beans out?

SCHUESSLER: No. The beans make chili good.

CAVUTO: Let's talk a little about the environment economically. There is a school of thought out there -- what the heck, it's my school of thought -- that goes like this: if the economy is improving, Jack, people are going to upgrade where they eat out. And that might hurt Wendy's. That it will go from a Wendy's to maybe a sit-down, full-service restaurant.

SCHUESSLER: Well, people still look for value every day. And there is a segment of the population, the upgrade will be Wendy's. So I think, all in all, we come out pretty well in all types of economic environment.


CAVUTO: All right. Jack Schuessler, the big cheese over at Wendy's.

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