Abigail Pringle, President, International and Chief Development Officer for The Wendy’s Company, explains Wendy’s rich heritage in franchising and why the brand is well positioned to enter the United Kingdom
More than 50 years ago, American founder Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s restaurant with an unwavering commitment to serve fresh, high-quality food, at a fair price, in a comfortable atmosphere.
Dave knew he wanted to run the best restaurant in the world, a dream he set for himself as an eight-year-old boy. Restaurants were Dave’s passion. He studied menus, observed how food was served, how it tasted, and he noted whether a restaurant and its staff were welcoming and friendly. From that young age, Dave was an expert at understanding what role a restaurant can play in a customer’s life, and what they expected.
He focused on quality and innovation from the very beginning, with Quality is Our Recipe as a core value from day one. He was known for thinking differently and developed groundbreaking new innovations like the pick-up window, which changed the face of the quick-service restaurant industry. And he didn’t stop there.
Dave introduced the franchise business model to Wendy’s. It was his idea to partner with franchisees interested in owning Wendy’s restaurants across entire cities and regions, rather than owning single units. This enabled Wendy’s to open a record 1,000 restaurants in the first 100 months of operations.
Today, Wendy’s remains committed to honour Dave’s longstanding legacy and is proud to be among the top tier of quick-service restaurants. The global restaurant company, famously known for its square hamburgers (because Wendy’s does not cut corners) has more than 6,800 restaurant locations across 30+ countries and territories with plans for significant international expansion.
We had the great pleasure of speaking with Abigail Pringle, President, International and Chief Development Officer for The Wendy’s Company, to talk more about Wendy’s highly anticipated entry into the United Kingdom.
Abigail shared: “No matter where you find us, quality will always be our recipe. We look forward to bringing our fans in the United Kingdom food customers love, using fresh, high-quality ingredients that deliver on taste and value every time.”
First question: Why is Wendy’s entering the United Kingdom?
Our vision is to become the world’s most thriving and beloved restaurant brand - and we are well on our way.
The United Kingdom is an exciting frontier for Wendy’s, serving as the foothold to drive growth across this region. We plan to enter the United Kingdom with company-owned and operated restaurants in the first half of 2021, and in our second phase, we will launch in priority areas with the country’s finest multi-unit franchisee operators.
The QSR burger market offers huge growth potential and we know that other U.S. brands are already performing well in the UK. We will challenge those brands with a truly differentiated, high-quality customer experience that only Wendy’s can offer.
What makes Wendy’s market entry different from when you previously entered the United Kingdom?
A lot has changed in the last few decades, and we are of course using the lessons learned from our prior experience in the market to inform our playbook.
We have built new infrastructure and invested in our people capabilities, both in the UK and globally, to raise the bar on how we bring our brand and customer experience to fans in the UK.
We have also established strong partnerships to navigate this market on a national and local level. Most importantly, this time, we are incredibly excited to establish new franchisee partnerships to help us quickly scale and expand our presence in the right way across this region.
Wendy’s has more than 50 years of experience in franchising. What qualifications do you look for in franchise partners and what are you looking for specific to the UK?
We are looking for franchisees to grow with us. We are focused on building long-term relationships with partners who share our values, our commitment to quality, and our passion for fast food done the right way.
We are excited to be developing Company restaurants in the UK, and we are seeking world-class, experienced multi-unit franchise partners with strong operations experience, local development expertise and a proven track record for growing brands within the UK.
Financial strength is critical. We are not looking for a single master franchisee, rather we are aiming to create a collection of multi-unit franchisee partners to help drive regional development over the next five to ten years.
How are you scouting prospective franchise partners?
We want to attract a more diverse profile of franchisee leaders that reflect the communities in which we operate, and more importantly, our customers.
We are working with some of the best UK lenders, suppliers and legal partners in the business, and these partners play a vital role in helping to inform how we are approaching our franchise recruiting plans.
For example, we have formally engaged with Platinum Wave, an independent consultancy and recruitment firm with 20 years in the franchise industry and a reputable partner of the British Franchise Association. We are also building strategic alliances with other third-party organisations, associations and affinity groups who can counsel us in local employee recruitment and training.
What are the benefits of being a franchise partner with Wendy’s?
Our prospective franchisees in the UK will be backed by an iconic, well-established and beloved global restaurant brand with more than 50 years of success in the quick-service restaurant industry.
While we are new to the market, we certainly are not new to franchising. That’s why we are entering the United Kingdom by starting with a Companyowned model to lead by example, set the standards, help build brand awareness and ensure we are executing against our high brand standards. This will also allow us to lean into growth and achieve scale more quickly.
We have an aggressive, yet disciplined, international strategy to accelerate growth with our multi-unit franchisee partners across the United Kingdom, as there is a vast amount of white space to build new restaurants in the best trade areas available.
From day one, our franchisees will receive support from our talented team of local and global operations, development and marketing experts. They will also benefit from our world-class supply chain and valued partnerships, including some of the world’s most reputable and recognizable brands.
What makes Wendy’s different from other American Hamburger Brands?
Our commitment to the core values established by Dave Thomas serves as the foundation for all we do.
Everything is grounded in the Wendy’s Way, with a focus on delivering great tasting, high quality food at competitive prices, fast and friendly service that brings customers back, and a place people love to go for fast food done right.
At the heart of our brand are great people. We understand that people want to have fun where they dine, and where they work. That’s why our employees are encouraged to bring their authentic self to work, creating a fun, diverse and vibrant environment within our restaurants.
Another thing that differentiates Wendy’s is the support we provide our franchisees and the focus we put on ensuring that we maintain strong relationships with all our key stakeholders, including franchisees, employees and suppliers.
Many of our franchise partners across the globe are continuing to invest in the brand, despite a challenging environment, because they have faith in the future of Wendy’s. Together, we are stretching our creativity and turning the disruption we are currently facing into opportunity, as we know this environment provides us an amazing chance to do big things!
Do you think UK consumers will fancy square hamburgers and a Frosty® Dessert?
Absolutely! We have conducted research with thousands of consumers in the UK to really understand what they think about Wendy’s and what is driving strong appeal for the brand.
We used these insights to inform and validate our core menu offerings for this market, including our made-to-order square hamburgers, using fresh, 100 per cent British Beef, fresh salads prepared daily, natural-cut sea-salt fries, our signature chili and baked potato, and of course Wendy’s iconic Frosty® dessert.
We also added localised items to our menu that are tailored for UK consumers, while staying true to our brand DNA of using fresh, honest ingredients. We are excited to unveil these new menu offerings at launch!
Finally, we are eager to know…what is your favourite Wendy’s menu item?
This might be your hardest question!
It is tough to pick just one. I am a big fan of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which has been on our menu for 25 years! I also fully appreciate fresh beef. I grew up on a cattle farm in Maine, and my family dined at the only Wendy’s in town because my father loved the brand. So, Wendy’s has always been special to me and my family.
AT A GLANCE WENDY’S
Number of franchised outlets:
Location of units:
32 countries, including USA, Canada, Asia, Middle East
Steve Lampshire firstname.lastname@example.org wendys.com