Wendy’s Innovates on Real Estate
Showing off gleaming, modern pictures of its re-imaged store concepts, Wendy’s director Angela Coppler said the prohibitive cost of building new restaurants has led the brand to convert former Burger Kings, retail storefronts and even banks as it seeks to add new locations without breaking the piggy bank of the third-largest QSR hamburger player or its franchisees.
Now nearly 50 years old, with more than $10 billion in annual sales, Wendy’s has a clear mission “to drive more customers to our restaurants more often.” New units and refreshed pre-existing locations has been a key part of the company’s plans to accelerate growth, with 16 consecutive quarters of North American same-store sales growth to show that the company is on the right track--even in a newly challenging restaurant market.
“It’s an incredible foundation for us to continue to build upon in 2017 and moving forward,” Coppler said. “It’s important to us that we continue to focus on our mission, to drive brand evolution and … focusing in on our quality product.”
With a recent, highly publicized Twitter spat with a snarky guest who questioned the validity of its “fresh, never frozen tagline,” she added that the company has doubled down on its fresh-beef messaging in national advertising and social media channels that have seen a spike in followers in the wake of all the good press. It now has more than 8 million Facebook followers, which is a Whopper by any brand’s standards. Three out of four Americans eat a hamburger every week, she added, providing the company motivation to “take advantage of every one of those opportunities.”
Its goal is adding 1,000 new restaurants by 2020, which it is working towards by transforming its franchise operation through the refranchising of 1,000 company-owned units. Its ongoing re-imaging program has already transformed more than 30% of its locations, with a goal of hitting 40% by the end of 2017.
For new builds, Wendy’s has reduced the total investment by $300,000, shrunk the size of the footprint, integrated more technology, reduced build time and reduced restaurant energy use by 20%.
“This smaller platform really opens up a number of new opportunities--smaller places and smaller towns,” Coppler said.
Even though Wendy’s is massive, with more than 6,500 units, she said the words of its founder, Dave Thomas, still ring true: “I never wanted to be the biggest, I wanted to be the best.”