The Wendy’s of tomorrow isn’t your parents’ fast-food joint. With an all-encompassing brand transformation program in place—which includes everything from a new logo and store design to upscale menu developments and attention-catching ad campaigns—the chain is delivering everything today’s demanding customer desires.

“We feel that all brands have to move forward,” says Wendy’s chief marketing officer Craig Bahner. “You can’t stand still. You’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse.”

And with all the transformations going on at the brand, Bahner says it’s definitely committed to getting better.

To deliver on its promise of becoming a more modern brand, Wendy’s started where consumers could witness the transformation most—in the store.

Its new “image activation” restaurants feature a bold, sleek, ultra-modern design that includes perks like lounge seating, fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, WiFi, and digital menuboards.

“Consumers are saying, ‘We want to dine in an environment that’s inviting and comfortable and contemporary and that reflects the lifestyle that we have today,’” Bahner says. “In an always-on world, … it’s important to provide that environment.”

The brand is already reaping rewards for its efforts, with an average sales increase of more than 25 percent in the reimaged stores.

By year-end, Wendy’s plans to finish 75 reimage, with 50 percent of its company-operated stores redesigned by the end of 2015.

Another notable design change taking place at the chain is the first logo revamp in 30 years. Though Bahner admits the brand has been a little slow in this evolution, he says Wendy’s “wanted a brand logo that fit the brand as we see it moving into the future.”

The new logo fuses the chain’s iconic symbols—like the Wendy cameo, the color red, and the wave of the Wendy’s logo type—with a more modern appearance.

“We actually grew [Wendy] up a little bit,” Bahner says. “We made her a little more multicultural, we made her more contemporary looking, and we got her out of her shell.”

The brand also switched to a handwritten-type font, which gives off a more personal and inviting vibe, he says.

The new logo—which was designed by San Francisco–based design firm Tesser—will be introduced on packaging, crew uniforms, restaurant signage, menuboards, websites, and advertising beginning in March 2013.

The brand is also innovating on the food front. Bahner says the brand wants to expand the rich history of menu innovation that founder Dave Thomas was known for since the brand took flight in 1969. From the Bacon Portabella Melt and the Spicy Chicken Guacamole sandwich to the Sweet Baked Potato, Bahner says Wendy’s is delivering distinct contemporary flavors that consumers now expect.

“They get that from some of our fast-casual competitors,” he says, “but they should have access to that at [quick-service] prices.”

To communicate the long list of transformations going on at the brand, Wendy’s has taken a two-pronged ad approach. The first leg of the campaign features brand namesake Wendy Thomas.

“Wendy really talks about the brand’s values, and we have some tremendous equities on this brand around fresh ingredients, quality, and those types of values that we really need to reconnect customers to,” Bahner says. “Wendy does a great job of saying, ‘Here’s how my dad founded this brand, and these are enduring values. It’s why we do the things we do.’”

The second leg features a character known as “Red,” who focuses on specific product offerings and demonstrates Wendy’s superior taste, Bahner says. “We like to summarize by saying Wendy gives consumers something to buy into, and Red gives consumers something to buy.”

Though Bahner says the campaign is successfully grabbing the attention of consumers—as evidenced by five consecutive quarters of same-stores sales increases—the brand must continue to deliver on experience once they’re in the store.

“We think that our marketing is going to drive consumers to restaurants, and at the restaurants, we want to surprise and delight them,” he says. “What the industry surveys are saying is that we’re having some success in doing that.

“The whole thing is about brand transformation,” he continues. “The restaurant environment, the brand logo, the advertising campaign, the products, the menu strategy … all drives toward [the idea that] it’s a new Wendy’s. And it’s an exciting place to be.”

By Mary Avant

Burgers, Design, Menu Innovations, News, Restaurant Operations, Sandwiches, Wendy's