Wendy’s looks to expand Canadian and digital presence

Wendy’s plans to expand its global footprint to 8,000 restaurants by 2025 include focusing on Canadian and digital expansion.

Chief Development Officer Abigail Pringle said the restaurant chain is focusing on driving growth through nontraditional locations. Some 30 per cent of the roughly 1,200 new locations will be nontraditional units, including ghost kitchens, delivery-only locations, fuel, and transit centre locations. 

“In the past, I think restaurant brands, and even Wendy’s, might have said a traditional four-wall, drive-thru restaurant was the only way to go, but then we would have missed out on being where customers are,” Pringle said. 

Much of the design shift will focus on customer demand for convenient, off-premise experiences. Such transitions have been a booming trend during the pandemic.

Over the last year, Wendy’s international digital business grew to more than 10 per cent of total company sales, driven by its Canadian delivery business, CEO Todd Penegor said.

“I think customers are telling us that they like that convenience. And as customer behaviours change, we need to change and evolve our designs,” Pringle said. “We have things like mobile ordering and curbside. We want to enhance our drive-thru experience, but also importantly, how do we enhance our delivery experience? And the driver’s need to have a convenient experience.” 

Wendy’s is revamping design elements spanning from front counter layout to entire building concepts to ensure delivery drivers have a convenient experience. It is also pursuing delivery-only locations as a way to broaden its access to customers.

Wendy’s already has ghost kitchen locations in the U.S. and in late 2020 united with Reef Technology to launch what it calls “Neighborhood Kitchens” in Toronto, Canada. These are delivery-only kitchens on wheels that allow Wendy’s to “go into some of the biggest cities around the world where we don’t have traditional restaurants,” Pringle said.

RELATED: Big restaurant chains are modernizing their drive-thru experience

Changes in Quebec

95 per cent of Wendy’s system is franchised, and franchisees are given a variety of store design options ranging from container formats and modular buildings to drive-thru-only concepts and Wendy’s 2.0 designs.

It announced this week that 13 franchised restaurants in Quebec are being transferred to Compass Restaurant Group’s Kathryn and John Chayka. They had previously been owned by DP Murphy (Quebec) Inc.

That agreement includes a commitment from the owners to build additional new restaurants by the end of 2025, which is expected to double Wendy’s footprint in the province.

“At Wendy’s, we see tremendous opportunity in Quebec with more than a quarter of the population living there and only three per cent of our Wendy’s Canadian restaurants. We’ve seen strong sales growth in this market and believe there is a great opportunity to unlock growth for Wendy’s in Quebec,” said Pringle. “This new agreement demonstrates the strength of the brand and the faith our franchise partners have in our bright future. Wendy’s franchise owners, like Kathryn and John Chayka, continue to play an integral role in bringing our restaurants to communities across Canada and we are thrilled with their continued commitment to Wendy’s.”

“Community has always been an important part of our lives and our Wendy’s restaurants have been a great way for us to connect with those in the Niagara region. This expansion is an exciting opportunity for us to grow our business, bring jobs to Quebec and to provide more Wendy’s experiences to more consumers across Canada,” said Kathryn Chayka, Operating Partner, Compass Restaurants Group.

“I think Wendy’s has done a really good job growing and re-invigorating the brand. They’ve done a really good job adapting with consumers, and not only that, it’s sometimes hard for brands to be Canadian when they’re not necessarily Canadian. I think they do a really good job with the quality. We have Canadian beef. They do a great job speaking to the Canadian consumer and even more now speaking to the millennial consumer.” 

A Wendy’s release stresses the company is actively recruiting additional new franchisees across the province of Quebec and across Canada. More details can be found by visiting www.wendys.com/franchising.

Wendy’s currently has more than 6,800 restaurants worldwide.

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