Wendy’s is the third largest hamburger chain in the world. It has failed twice in the British market- will it succeed on its third attempt?
Wendy’s and Grand Metropolitan
Wendy’s entered the British market with a flagship restaurant on Oxford Street in 1980. For trademark reasons it was called Wendy, not Wendy’s. The operation was a joint venture with Grand Metropolitan, a large British hospitality concern. Grand Met was an experienced local operator, having already enjoyed great success with the Berni Inn casual dining chain. Plans were announced to open 500 outlets across Britain, with an over-25s target demographic.
Grand Met exited the joint venture after just six months. Wendy’s International assumed full control of the British operations.
A second outlet was opened on the Strand in 1981.
Wendy expanded to 16 restaurants. However high rental costs at its central London sites, menu problems, and a weak economy left the business struggling to make a profit.
The sites, all of which were located in London and the South East, were sold to Whitbread for £6.8 million in 1986. Whitbread converted the sites into Quick, the Belgian fast food brand, and Pizza Hut outlets.
Denny Lynch, vice president of communications for Wendy’s, explained:
we were doing so well in the US, we just kind of assumed that it would carry over. But it’s a lot harder to do than just putting up a restaurant. It takes a better understanding of the nuances of each one of these countries you’re going into.
Wendy’s returns to the British market
Wendy’s returned for a second attempt at the UK market in 1992. The first two branches were at Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street. Outlets were now branded as “Wendy’s”, and featured salad bars. Sites were concentrated at London and West Yorkshire, with plans to expand to 70 outlets.
There were twelve restaurants by 1996, including eight company-owned and four franchise sites. Wendy’s retreated from the British market for the second time in 2000. Some of its most prominent sites were taken over by McDonald’s, including Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, York Way near King’s Cross and Briggate in Leeds. Wendy’s blamed high property and operating costs for its failure in the British market.
Wendy’s announces plans to return to Britain
Wendy’s returned to Britain in 2021, with an outlet in Reading.