Wendy’s Prepares To Relaunch Franchise Operations In The U.K.
Posted 18/02/2021 : By: Debbie Dennis
It’s been over a decade since Wendy’s shut the door to their last U.K. based burger restaurant, but this week the American fast food franchise chain confirmed that their plans first announced back in 2019 to relaunch across the Atlantic are now coming to fruition. The first two Wendy's British locations will open this year in Reading and Oxford, and it seems that the capital is firmly in their sights as a spokesman confirmed they are “exploring additional opportunities in London.” These first sites will be company-owned but Wendy's have confirmed that they are also looking to build their U.K.-based operations through franchising and are now actively looking for franchise partners to open new locations across the country.
We haven’t seen the famous red pigtails of the familiar Wendy’s logo over here in the U.K. since 2000. They first launched on British shores in the 1980s, but whilst other American fast food brands such as Five Guys and Taco Bell have successfully managed to gain and maintain a foothold in the British market, Wendy’s previously struggled to maintain U.K. success. They blamed high property and operating costs for their eventual retreat from their ten U.K. sites, saying that they wanted to focus on their domestic North American market. But there was a big hint that the brand had their eyes firmly fixed on a return to British waters as far back as 2017 when they launched a 4 hour pop-up in London with the promise that they’d be back if things went well.
Wendy's was founded in 1969 in Ohio by Dave Thomas, and by 2018 it had grown to become the world’s third largest fast food chain, following on hot on the heels of McDonald's and Burger King. Thomas became very much the face of the brand and appeared in more than 800 of Wendy's commercials, more than any other company founder in television history. When Thomas died in 2002 the brand appeared to lose direction for a time, before finding a new energy through a remodel of many of its stores, the launch of their new Smart Design restaurants, a menu revamp and an innovative and entertaining social media strategy which has gained them a huge fan following.
Undoubtedly observing the success of other American burger chains across the Atlantic such as Five Guys who launched in London in 2013 to queues of customers around the block and now have over 90 British restaurant sites, Wendy’s President of International and Chief Development Officer Abigail Pringle told investors at the Wendy's Investors Day 2019 that the firm was looking to cash in on the growth of fast food in the U.K. She took on the international development role in June 2019 and, tasked with making Wendy's a major fast food player overseas, quickly announced plans to launch 20 British outlets over the next few years, saying, "The United Kingdom will be our beachhead to European expansion. We believe it is a growing market and it has lots of great growth ahead of it. We also know that great American brands have been successful. Burger brands have been unbelievably successful there. But we believe that we can challenge those brands."