By Lina Saigol
U.S. fast-food chain Wendy’s (NAS:WEN) is planning to return to the U.K. for the first time in more than 20 years, as it aims to take on rivals McDonald’s, Burger King and even upstart burger joints like Five Guys.
Wendy’s, which is known for its square burgers, plans to open up to 400 outlets across Britain in the next few years, in a move that will create 12,000 jobs. The first branch will open in Reading, Berkshire in June, followed by Stratford, east London and Oxford.
By contrast, McDonald’s (NYS:MCD) has 1,300 outlets in the U.K. and more than 36,000 worldwide.
Wendy’s, which has already agreed a delivery deal with Uber’s (NYS:UBER) food-delivery service, Uber Eats, wants to use its British outlets as a springboard to expand across Europe. It looks to cash in on the growth of fast food consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has boomed as much of the hospitality sector remained closed during government-imposed lockdowns.
“The U.K. launch will spearhead a European-wide expansion as Wendy’s looks to build on strong growth on the other side of the Atlantic, where the brand last year dethroned Burger King to become the No. 2 player in the U.S. hamburger market,” said Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s president and international and chief development officer, in a statement obtained by several media outlets.
Founded in 1969 in Ohio, Wendy’s now has 6,800 outlets. The fast-food chain exited from the U.K. market in 2001, blaming high operating costs for its departure.
Wendy’s U.K. menu will serve up the chain’s classics, including its Baconators breakfast, towering triple-stacked beef burgers and Chocolate Frosty desserts. It will also offer more vegetarian options for Brits, according to a report in the Sunday Times newspaper.
Fast-food chains are increasingly introducing healthier options to follow consumer tastes. Earlier this year, Burger King, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International (NYS:QSR) , redesigned its brand for the first time in 20 years, including its logo, food packaging and restaurants to reflect improvements such as eliminating preservatives.
Even if the U.K. market doesn’t expand as fast as anticipated, Pringle said Wendy’s will be able to take market share from rivals by emphasizing quality and service, which it says is part of the reason it has overtaken Burger King in the past year to become the second-biggest burger chain in the U.S.
Wendy’s “All Beef, No Bull” motto — specifically created for the U.K. — is designed to show its approach to food preparation and supply, as well as customers and employees, including a promise of “no zero-hour contracts.”
Following pressure from workers and unions, McDonald’s announced in April 2017 that all of its 120,000 plus employees will be offered the choice of flexible or fixed contracts offering minimum guaranteed hours.