Wendy’s admits it was behind ‘French Toast Guy’

Use the transit system in any major city regularly, and you’re going to see some stuff that’ll make you do a double take.

That was the case in Toronto the past few days, when TTC users began circulating photos and video of a man sitting at a makeshift table, complete with linen table cloth, enjoying a hearty meal of French toast. Quickly dubbed “French Toast Guy,” the man was spotted on subway cars, and outside subway stations across the city.

One TikTok post showed him sitting outside of St. Andrew’s subway station, wearing a chef’s hat and using a portable hot plate and frying pan to make a meal. “I love French toast,” he tells a bemused bystander.

Not surprisingly, his antics led to widespread coverage by most of the Toronto media outlets, including the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, CP24, and Narcity.

On Wednesday, though, Wendy’s Canada confirmed it was a PR stunt to promote its Homestyle French Toast Sticks, the newest addition to its revamped breakfast menu. Wendy’s claims that the new menu item is “perfect for breakfast on the go” (feels like a missed opportunity to do this on GO Transit).

“We can all take a little inspiration from French Toast Guy to slow down and enjoy the sweeter moments of our morning routines,” said a representative from Wendy’s PR agency, Ketchum, in response to a query from The Message. “We toast Wendy’s French Toast Guy in helping us celebrate a breakfast worth waking up for.”

Their response also linked out to a TikTok video housed on Wendy’s Instagram channel, accompanied by the message “Technically, he’s French Toast Stick Guy now.”

McCann Canada creative director Amy O’Neill confirmed the agency’s involvement in a LinkedIn post on Wednesday (Initiative Media led paid media). “This was all an elaborate way to let you know that Wendy’s now has Homestyle French Toast Sticks so there’s a much easier way to eat your French toast on the go,” she wrote.

“Seeing someone eating French toast with a knife and fork, all the toppings, and their own table and tablecloth is not something you see every day, even in Toronto,” said O’Neill and creative partner Bill Schaefer in an email to The Message. “And so the mystery grew. People wondered things like ‘Is this performance art?’ ‘Is it a marketing stunt by the TTC?’ and most of all ‘What is the bell for?!'”

Future messaging will focus on “portability and convenience,” they added. “Will we ever see #FrenchToastGuy again? We prefer for that to remain, much like most things about him, a mystery.”

It’s actually impressive that Wendy’s was able to fool people who have become so attuned (numb?) to marketing stunts, so it feels only fitting to raise a toast (stick) to the fast food giant.


Top image: Wendy’s and @aurorapamo (TikTok)

Chris Powell