A drop back on REEF
One of the pulsing topics of Wendy’s Q2 recap was its decision to readjust its REEF plans. The company announced a deal with the delivery-kitchen operator in August 2021 to open 700 models over the next five years across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
That figure is now only 100–150, with the majority operating internationally in Canada and the U.K. There are two factors deflating the former outlook. The main is REEF’s decision to shift strategy to operating multiple brands from its locations. The other is U.S. stores are producing AUVs at $500,000 or less (it’s between $500,000 and $1 million in other markets).
Wendy’s is working to reposition vessels into better trade areas. Penegor said the opportunity remains largely in urban markets, where Wendy’s has long been underpenetrated versus top-tier competitors. And it will target that whitespace, whether it’s “cracking the code with REEF, finding another partner, thinking about other ways to traditionally grow into some of those markets,” he said.
Wendy’s expects to approach 140 closures this year, and 35–40 of those will be REEF units. At the end of Q2, the chain had about 70 of them. It should exit 2022 at 65.
Overall, Wendy’s anticipated 2022 net unit growth is now about 3–4 percent, with plans to reach 8,000–8,500 global units by year-end 2025. The brand previously projected to be at 5–6 percent for the year.
“REEF really wanted to shift operating multiple brands from its locations, and they have had some recent challenges with opening some delivery kitchens in certain locations with what it takes to work through the permitting in those markets,” Penegor said. “So we thought it prudent to call down that number.”
Simply, Wendy’s did not want multiple brands out of its kitchens. “We want to dedicate it to Wendy’s, so we will be slow and steady,” he noted. “We still think there is a great urban opportunity to continue to provide access to our brand with some kind of concept in those markets.”
Through the end of July, Wendy’s had more than 70 percent of its total 2022 new unit growth open or under construction. There are over 200 potential franchise candidates in the pipeline. Year-to-date, Wendy’s has opened 74 locations (net of 45) and 140 globally (net of 91).
In an email to QSR, a REEF spokesperson called Wendy’s, "an early adopter of the REEF model and one of the most forward-thinking of our partners."
"We are excited to continue innovating together with a focus on doubling down internationally where we’ve seen very strong economics in our current partnership," the company continued. "As REEF continues to focus on profitable growth we are committed to increasing productivity and efficiency by delivering multiple brands from every kitchen in our ecosystem—when deploying our multi-brand model we have already seen the average sales per kitchen double over the last year.”
Breakfast and other trends
Wendy’s maintained breakfast sales volumes versus the prior year and grew its category meal share, Penegor said. The activity was fueled by another run of Wendy’s Buck Biscuit promotion and awareness messaging. Sales volumes reached north of $2,700, up from $2,500 in Q1, and ahead of the breakeven mark of $2,000. Despite challenges in the daypart as consumer mobility remains soft, Wendy’s expects year-over-year U.S. breakfast sales growth of about 10 percent this year, as well as reaching its $3,000 weekly target.
French Toast Sticks, which launched in August, should generate incremental visits and add-ons, Penegor said. Additionally, it gives Wendy’s a product to draw in families and kids, which it hasn’t had previously. Wendy’s has $16 million committed globally this year to breakfast advertising.
“If you look at the category, you’re seeing more folks consume their food at home and grab the drink on the way. So you’re seeing folks grab a C-store beverage or seeing folks go to the traditional coffee houses,” Penegor said. “A lot of the function of the share growth is when you look at some of the year-on-year comparisons. And there is still a little bit of noise out there in the comparisons. So you have seen the overall [quick-service] burger category and breakfast soften. We actually held our growth year-on-year.”
Global digital sales reached mix of 10 percent in Q2. International boasted about 15 percent and some markets, like Canada, are witnessing especially strong digital usage for breakfast. In the U.K., for instance, digital eclipsed 70 percent.
Stateside, it comprised just over 9 percent of overall sales in Q2 and bumped 2.5 percent quarter-over-quarter. Wendy’s grew its monthly active users by 5 percent.
Wendy’s also recently unveiled a new global restaurant design the company expects to lower build costs by about 10 percent. It will focus on optimized layouts that “deliver convenience, speed, and accuracy for our crew and our customers across all order and fulfillment channels,” Penegor said.
What it broadly does, Plosch added, is embrace digital in Wendy’s design. It has a dedicated delivery pickup window. The kitchen is reconfigured. “So, literally, you have to do way less steps to get all your tasks done,” he said. “That drives operating efficiencies. And we are also embracing whole mobile orders with all shelving and dedicated shelving units and dedicated parking, so that the friction for the consumer is much more reduced and the friction for the crews is much more reduced.”