COLUMBUS: Restaurant upgrades and a marketing strategy that taps into customers' sense of nostalgia has boosted Wendy's, with the firm now on track to become America's number two hamburger chain.

The Financial Times reports that the fast food specialist could surpass Burger King's share of the US hamburger market over the next few months.

Over recent years, the two firms' marketing strategies have differed markedly, with Wendy's deliberately harking back to its classic 1980s 'Where's the beef?' spots, and Burger King pursuing the male audience with a series of humourous campaigns such as 'Whopper Freakout'.

The long-running 'Have it your way' spots have also highlighted the customisable nature of Burger King meals.

Recent analysis from Mark Kalinowski of Janney Capital Markets has suggested that Wendy's could overtake its rival by the end of 2011. This would be the first time that Wendy's market share has surpassed that of Burger King since the firm was established in 1969.

Kalinowski also said that the chain's attempts to position itself as a "cut above" its fast food rivals – using ads that focus on food quality and equipping outlets with extra features like flat screen TVs and fireplaces – was proving to be successful.

He added that Burger King needed to "find its voice" with its communications. "To us, flame-broiling and 'Have it your way' are not nearly enough to connect with many of today's sophisticated burger-sector consumers," Kalinowski said.

Speaking to the Financial Times, US marketing consultant Jeff Greenhouse said: "People are looking for better food now, and ultimately the food is what's going to get people coming back."

Figures from research firm Technomic for 2010 indicated that Burger King's market share in the burger category was 13.3%, with Wendy's just behind on 12.8%. McDonalds was the market leader on 49.5%.

More analysis on Wendy's is available to Warc subscribers in this company profile from Euromonitor.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Orange County Register; additional content by Warc staff