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Wendy’s embraces ghost kitchens with 30 per cent of future locations set to be non-traditional

Wendy’s embraces ghost kitchens with 30 per cent of future locations set to be non-traditional

Wendy’s will invest in delivery-only units, ghost kitchens, fuel and travel center units.

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As reported by Restaurant Dive, the 6,800 unit strong Wendy’s are pursuing a strategy of growth in non-traditional locations as customer demand for off-premises locations and convenience are the call of the hour.

Abigail Pringle, the chief development officer at Wendy’s, speaking with the media on Monday, said, “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.”

The interest is there: Wendy’s Canadian delivery business saw digital sales grow to 10 per cent of total company sales. In the U.S., digital sales comprised 7.5 per cent of sales in Q1 of 2021, steady growth from the six per cent in the previous quarter.

“I think customers are telling us that they like that convenience. And as customer behaviors 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 drivers need to have a convenient experience.”

Wendy’s has been in step with innovations in the industry and recognized the need to diversify its locations and customer experiences in 2017, where it experimented with its ‘smart store’ design that decreased footprint and the size of in-store kiosks.

Focusing on off-premises sites

This has been seen in the rest of the restaurant sector. Customers wanted to enjoy their favourite foods during the pandemic and found ordering and delivery was often the only option available, if their favourite restaurant had that option at all.

“In the U.S., we only have one restaurant for every 135,000 people in some of our biggest metro cities. That’s people having to give up on having Wendy’s — we don’t want to have that,” said Pringle.

“So we want to bring Wendy’s to people through the convenience of delivery, and we think these dark kitchens can help us do that.”

Wendy’s already has three restaurants with drive-thrus in the pipeline and has opened one in the U.K. The Philippines is home to a drive-thru only Wendy’s location, in which customers can make orders and pick them up later.

Franchisees can also expect increased efficiency, with new designs freeing up time for employees to focus on customers and getting their orders correct.

“For example, with the enhancement of mobile ordering, or with curbside, and what we do with our digital, instead of spending time on taking an order or processing payment, [an employee] can spend time with you and smile … engage with you [to make] sure your order is accurate,” Pringle said.

Wendy’s considers its non-traditional locations an important part of its offering, and will grow it in the years to come.

“We have had some non-traditional development but not at a very big pace and not in a significant, intentional way. You’ll see a lot more of us in those unique places,” Pringle said.

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