Wendy's to Allow Free Substitution of Fries in Meals

Wendy's International Inc. (WEN) Monday said it will allow customers to forego French fries included in its combo meals in favor of chili, a baked potato or a salad, at no extra charge, as it works to regain market share.

"We believe this approach will help Wendy's stand apart from the competition," Wendy's North America President Tom Mueller said in a statement.

Wendy's combo meals typically include a main item such as a burger, a soft drink, and a side order of fries.

Wendy's, the No. 3 U.S. burger chain, has been losing market share in recent months to rivals McDonald's Corp. (MCD) and Burger King Corp. (search) , which have reversed flagging sales with premium menu offerings like entree-sized salads.

Burger King spokesman Eric Anderson said the chain has been offering something called Lite Combo meals since September 2003, which allows customers to substitute fries and a soft drink for a side salad and a bottle of water.

McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman said it has no nationwide program for substituting fries in its Extra Value meals, but said its franchisees might allow customers to opt for something other than French fries. There may or may not be a price difference, he added.