The first new-look Wendy’s will open in New Albany next year.
The Dublin-based restaurant chain announced that plan last week, but company leaders are now sharing more details about the new design.
“This is not just about today, but where we’re going in the future,” Abigail Pringle, chief development officer and president of international, said in an interview with Columbus Business First. “Our restaurants are here for 10, 20, 30 years.”
Shaped in part by consumer wants of today, Wendy’s (Nasdaq: WEN) is betting that trends like mobile ordering and third-party delivery are here to stay.
That’s why the New Albany restaurant isn’t a test; it’s the plan.
Wendy’s already has been testing its ideas and layout in a simulation store inside a warehouse space it owns in Dublin.
Pringle said the company is confident with what it is rolling out, so expect many of the new openings in 2023 and beyond to be the new model.
“This will be our standard,” she said.
The design is sleek and modern with an optimized layout. Its new features aim to make the experience more convenient, speedy and accurate for for both employees and customers.
The new space represents all the different customer options. The traditional is still possible — go through the drive-thru or walk in to eat inside or order to go — but customers have different needs these days that didn’t exist as of a few years ago.
Mobile app users will have dedicated parking spaces and can walk right in and pick up their food from a dedicated shelf.
“Your meal’s ready. Grab it and go,” she said. “You don’t even have to talk to anyone.”
Digital orders are one of Wendy’s key growth pillars. They account for about 10% of sales now worldwide and are growing by the month.
Pringle said digital demand is even higher overseas, with some markets seeing more than 50% of sales through mobile orders, delivery and kiosks.
The new model is also designed to serve delivery drivers. They too will have dedicated parking as well as a window of their own from which to pickup meals. That means drivers save time by not having to come into the restaurant nor do they back up the drive-thru line.
“Seamless, quick and easy,” Pringle said of the experience.
Even the traditional methods get a tweak. For customers that want it, orders can be placed via kiosks in the dining room. Wendy’s has utilized kiosks in stores already.
The bigger changes may be for employees though. The kitchen been redesigned to be more efficient, reducing the steps employees need to take during the day. Equipment and fixtures will be modular and on wheels, able to be reconfigured if needed.
Those changes, along with new equipment such as double-sided grills and improved technology, will allow employees to work “smarter, not harder.”
Pringle said that is key because making the job easier only helps Wendy’s ability to retain talent in a challenging employment market.
There are financial benefits too. The building is smaller, meaning it costs about 10% less than the current Wendy’s to build.
Though one might think the space savings are coming at the front of the restaurant with the shift away from dine-in and toward carry out — about 21% of sales were dine-in last quarter — the space savings are primarily with the kitchen redesign.
Pringle said the dining room is the same size as with the previous design. Wendy’s already made its reductions to dining space with that redesign about a decade ago which took the 3,000-square-foot restaurants down to around 2,000 to 2,200.
There’s another financial benefit as well. The upfront capital cost is not only lower, the more efficient space is expected to create savings over its life as well with an estimated 6% annual savings in utility costs due to energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems.