When Wendy’s CFO Gunther Plosch recently walked through the chain’s new prototype, the aim was apparent. “Finally,” he told investors last week, “we are embracing digital in our design.”
On Wednesday, Wendy’s shared that look publicly for the first time in what it’s labeling its “Global Next Gen” restaurant. Beginning this fall, new traditional restaurant builds will showcase the modern look, which boasts an optimized layout and upgraded technology “to deliver more Wendy’s to more people with an emphasis on convenience, speed, and accuracy,” the company said.
“To accelerate our business and expand our footprint across the globe, we must consistently meet the needs of our customers however they chose to engage with Wendy’s, whether that’s through a digital platform or in the drive-thru,” Wendy’s president and CEO Todd Penegor said in a statement. “Global Next Gen enhances the customer experience across ordering channels and streamlines operations for our crew, all while creating better returns for franchisees.”
Among the main changes, the unit includes a delivery pickup window. The dedicated window and delivery parking enables delivery drivers (who previously had to enter the dining room) to grab orders and go. It also shifts traffic out of the drive-thru line where customers are waiting. Now, employees can focus on taking and fulfilling orders quicker and more accurately, Wendy’s said.
There’s also dedicated mobile order pickup, with mobile parking and pickup shelving inside. Guests select a pickup time when placing a mobile order and, when then show up, park in a designated spot and take their meal off the mobile order pickup shelving.
In-store, there’s a galley-style kitchen design that runs from the front to the back of the restaurant. Wendy’s said it increases oversight for employees across all channels. It allows for efficiencies at the point of the sale, providing crew the ability to slide between positions, and supports faster order fulfillment.
“So, literally, you have to do way less steps to get all your tasks done,” Plosch said last week. “So, that drives also operating efficiencies. And we are also embracing mobile orders with all shelfing and dedicated shelfing 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.”
The store weaves modernized tech throughout, the company noted. Wendy’s didn’t get into many specifics, only to say it enables “restaurant teams to handle significantly more digital business than before. This also provides a platform for forward-leaning technology innovation.”
“Global Next Gen was designed to streamline operations,” added Kurt Kane, Wendy’s chief commercial officer. “The new, cutting-edge blueprint removes barriers to increase accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness, supporting fast order fulfillment and enabling ongoing culinary innovation. This allows restaurant teams more time to focus on the most rewarding parts of their jobs—creating positive customer experiences that keep Wendy’s fans coming back again and again.”
One thing it does feature, alongside a fresh back-office platform, chief information officer Kevin Vasconi said, is the DSG 2.0 grill that speeds cook times from 155 to 80 seconds and provides even cooking. There’s also a USB interface that updates menus and recipes, and temperature uniformity with five independently controlled heat zones—three on plate and two on platen. Each lane can be set to a different temperature (breakfast and lunch) and it’s WiFi capable for remote grill monitoring.
Additionally, Global Next Gen will use more efficient building elements such as lighting and HVAC to decrease energy usage and costs.
Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s president, international and chief development officer, said the store touts an annual energy cost reduction of about 6 percent, “which is a win for our franchisees and a win for the environment.”
“The new design also provides demonstrated labor optimization improvements, which add up to valuable savings here as well,” she added.
The overall cost equation is something Wendy’s brought up in its recently quarter recap as well. Plosch said it would reduce investment costs by 10 percent, boosting returns. “This new design is truly cutting-edge and 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 during Wendy’s Q2 review.
The first location is slated to open spring 2023 in New Albany, Ohio.
“As the first restaurant brand to offer a modern pick-up window more than 50 years ago, Wendy’s continues its legacy of design and innovation with Global Next Gen,” Penegor said. “Our new global restaurant standard unlocks opportunities at the intersection of innovative design and technology, bringing us one step closer to our vision of becoming the world’s most thriving and beloved restaurant brand.”
Connecting technology from the ground up fits broader trends for the brand. Wendy’s global digital sales reached 10 percent of sales in Q2. International was about 15 percent and some markets, like Canada, observed especially strong digital usage for breakfast. In the U.K., for instance, digital eclipsed 70 percent for the daypart.
Stateside, digital comprised just over 9 percent of overall sales in Q2 and bumped 2.5 percent quarter-over-quarter. Wendy’s said the growth was driven by an uptick in mobile orders as the brand upped its total loyalty members and monthly active users by over 5 percent versus Q1, exiting the period at record highs.
Overall, Wendy’s U.S. same-store sales climbed 2.3 percent in Q2 against last year’s lap of 16.1 percent. Global comps increased 3.7 percent over 17.4 percent, which marked the third straight period of double-digit two-year growth.