Less than a year ago, Wendy’s lifted the lid on its Global Next Gen restaurant design standard. CFO Gunther Plosch had recently walked the prototype and told investors the company was “embracing digital in our design” with a model that boasted a modern look, optimized layout, and upgraded technology.
The burger chain on Tuesday said the first two Global Next Gen builds are now open in Kansas and Oklahoma, and Wendy’s has goals to debut more than 200 of them through 2024. It also shared some capabilities of the build and a kitchen innovation that’s going to layer into units with high customer demand.
Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s president of international and chief development officer, said Global Next Gen unlocks 400 times the capacity for digital orders. “By bringing Global Next Gen from cutting-edge blueprints to successful openings in less than one year, Wendy’s global structure is enabling system-wide expansion optimized to the digital age,” she said in a statement.
As of Q2, Wendy’s digital sales dollars increased 25 percent, year-over-year—a result that benefitted from late-night advertising and expanded operational hours—while holding steady at 12 percent sales mix. Starting this quarter, Wendy’s digital sales definition will also include in-restaurant mobile scans to closer resemble the rest of the industry. That should, CEO Todd Penegor said, help global digital sales eclipse $1.5 billion this year.
Wendy’s U.S. loyalty monthly active user base has climbed above 3.5 million as well.
The new kitchen model is called, “Global Next Gen High-Capacity Kitchen.” Wendy’s estimated it will deliver a nearly 50 percent increase in kitchen output capacity compared to the Global Next Gen Standard. It leverages the new design, but with added benefits of a dual-sided kitchen layout and increased kitchen capacity.
The configuration will feature state-of-the-art equipment, Wendy’s said, and a layout built to maximize capacity, “providing crew members with the tools they need to deliver exceptional quality efficiently,” including sandwich production areas, dedicated space for digital orders, and more prep area.
It also reduces travel distances for employees with strategically placed front counter, drive-thru, and expanded storage capacity to enhance overall operational flow while improving crew comfort and speed of service.
Going back to digital, the kitchen takes Global Next Gen’s evolutions into consideration to increase digital order capacity. There are self-order kiosks, conveniently located passthrough order pickup shelving, and dedicated parking for mobile order pickup to help to create a more streamlined experience for digital-first customers, Wendy’s said.
Additionally, the store boasts a dedicated delivery pickup window and parking spaces intended to improve restaurant traffic flow and overall convenience for delivery partners.
“The new high-capacity kitchen design maximizes kitchen throughput for restaurants with the highest volume using Global Next Gen design innovation as the foundation for success,” Pringle added. “We are excited to harness both design and technology to unlock digital and global growth to meet the demands of our customers today and tomorrow.”
Wendy’s reported U.S. same-store sales growth of 4.9 percent in Q2, comprised of about 6 percent price and negative guest counts. The chain’s two-year comp is running 7.2 percent.
The chain opened 41 stores in Q2 (net of 24), including its first Global Next Gen restaurant, bringing the total first-half number to 80 (net of 20).
Wendy’s expanded by a net of 56 domestic units last year.
“Built for the digital age, our Global Next Gen design standard sets the stage for better returns for our franchisees and a better experience for Wendy’s customers, delivery partners and restaurant crew,” Pringle said. “At Wendy’s, serving great-tasting food made with quality ingredients is at the heart of what we do. We’re incorporating technology and thoughtful design as key ingredients to not only push the quick-service restaurant industry forward, but to deliver on our promise: Quality is Our Recipe.”