America’s second largest burger chain is returning to the UK after 20 years with a promise to steal market share from rivals McDonald’s and Burger King.
Wendy’s, famous for square burgers, plans up to 400 outlets nationwide creating at least 12,000 jobs, although that could take many years, it said.
Wendy’s would still be far smaller than McDonald’s, which has 1,300 UK outlets.
The firm, which has also agreed a delivery deal with Uber Eats, left the UK complaining of high operating costs.
Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s chief development officer, said in media interviews over the weekend that with the UK burger and takeaway market growing the time was right for a return.
And the UK will be used a springboard for growth in the rest of Europe.
A statement said: “The UK 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 US hamburger market.”
A typical restaurant employs between 30 to 50 staff, the company said. Wendy’s has also promised no zero-hours contracts in a sector much-criticised for its low pay and working conditions.
The first Wendy’s will open next month, in Reading, followed by Stratford and Oxford, and the company said there will be new items on the menu tailored to the British market, including more vegetarian options.
But Wendy’s enters a crowded market that was facing tough times even before lockdown. Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron both hit financial trouble and were sold after restructurings.
Wendy’s said that even if the UK market does not expand as fast as anticipated, it still believes it can take market share from rivals by its emphasis on quality and service. The chain’s marketing likes to promote its use of locally sourced products and fresh meat that is not frozen.
The chain was founded in 1969 in Ohio and now has 6,800 outlets. It is listed on Wall Street with a valuation of $5bn (£3.6bn).
Wendy’s left the UK in 2001, citing property costs and other overheads that made expansion unviable.