Wendy’s is committing to another first in fresh. On June 5, the burger chain announced an initiative to source vine-ripened tomatoes for its North America restaurants exclusively from greenhouse farms by early 2019—a move it says will be a first in quick service.
“We’ve always been committed to providing customers with fresh, high-quality food. From our fresh never frozen beef, to creating the first salad bar in the [quick-service restaurant] space, to hand-chopping produce in our restaurants daily, this newest initiative to source vine-ripened tomatoes from greenhouse farms is the latest way we’re delivering on that commitment,” Liliana Esposito, chief communications officer for Wendy’s, said in a statement.
The tomatoes will be grown in indoor greenhouse and hydroponic farms from about a dozen suppliers throughout North America, Wendy’s said. This includes the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, and Great Lakes regions, as well as Eastern and Western Canada, and Mexico. Nearly all tomatoes will be sourced from the U.S. and Canada.
“We’re making this change for a variety of reasons that will benefit our customers, but taste and quality are the top factors and we are excited about the superior flavors we can achieve with this change,” added Dennis Hecker, senior vice president of quality assurance for Wendy’s. “Additionally, greenhouse farms provide supply predictability and quality assurance benefits—including continuity of supply; protection of crops from harsh weather; safe, indoor growing conditions; and a significant reduction of chemical pesticides used on the plants.”
Wendy’s said the move will also support local economies by sustaining the agricultural workforce with fresh produce that can be grown year-round in an indoor setting. Additionally, it will offer economic opportunities to regions previously unable to support year-round agriculture production due to geography and climate.
Wendy’s said the tomato supply transition will result in environment and social benefits the company expects to community regularly.
“Expected benefits include the significant reduction of chemical pesticide use, including replacing pesticides with natural integrated pest management practices such as ladybugs; water and land use benefits; safe, indoor working conditions and economic benefits to regions where the greenhouses are located,” Wendy’s said.
The chain is coming off a solid first quarter where same-store sales gained 1.6 percent in North America, giving Wendy’s its 21st consecutive quarter of growth. International systemwide sales lifted 13.7 percent in the quarter, year-over-year. North America sales hiked 2.8 percent compared to the 1.6 percent same-store sales number. Globally, Wendy’s sales were up 3.3 percent.
Wendy’s also reinforced its fresh-beef standing during a May 9 conference call, with president and CEO Todd Penegor saying McDonald’s move to fresh-beef Quarter Pounders was have little or no effect on their business. In fact, it was giving Wendy’s another reason to tell its story.
“We've seen that time and again in media and social media dialogue that it comes back to, well, Wendy's are the folks that really own fresh across their entire lineup,” Penegor said. “And we'll keep screaming that from the rooftops and making sure that we hold others in check on what's really happening in the restaurant—do they provide fresh on everything, every day in every restaurant?”