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UPDATED: New Wendy’s sports branded coffee bar

STARKVILLE Miss. A Wendy’s franchisee has opened what could be a new prototype for the chain, with such features as a branded coffee bar, flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi access and flowers on the tables, according to the owner of the unit.

The Starkville restaurant, which is operated by the Wendelta Inc. subsidiary of 90-unit Wendy’s franchisee Carlisle Corp., boasts the first-ever Javaccino’s coffee bar, a separate area that serves coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, and “Frosty-cinos,” described as Wendy’s signature Frosty frozen treats mixed with coffee flavoring and chocolate or caramel. The Frosty-cino sells for $3.69, a price point more associated with beverages at fast-casual concepts than at quick-service chains. A copy of Javaccino's menu can be seen here.

"In fast food, people have come to our stores to buy breakfast, lunch or dinner with a beverage as a side, and that's been our business for 50 years," said Gene Carlisle, chairman and founder of Carlisle, which owns the Starkville unit. "But there has been a dramatic shift in the consumer, and people are going to restaurants to purchase premium beverages ... and this is our opportunity to go after that market." Carlisle was recently identified as a possible suitor for franchisor Wendy’s International Inc., which is exploring a sale and other ways of boosting the value of stockowners’ holdings.

In a letter sent Wednesday to every franchisee and employee, Wendy’s International chief executive Kerrii Anderson also cited the objective of positioning the brand as a destination for beverages. She indicated that additions to Wendy’s beverage line-up could include specialty coffees and Frosty variations.

McDonald’s, the No. 1 burger brand to Wendy’s No. 3 position in the segment, also has said it would aggressively pursue beverage business and that it hoped to gain $1 billion in incremental sales from new espresso drinks.

Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s International has been exploring a possible sale, recapitalization or a change in strategic direction since April. Most speculation has focused on a sale of the company, and Carlisle reportedly has said he views the chain to be worth close to $2.5 billion, while another bidder, activist investor Nelson Peltz, has floated a buyout figure as high as $3.6 billion.

The Starkville location opens at a time of franchisee dissention in the Wendy’s system, reflected in a $2 million lawsuit filed this week and an open letter to Wendy’s officials claiming that franchisees had been shut out of the corporate decision-making process. Wendy’s officials said both complaints held no merit. Carlisle said it had the support of the franchisor in its coffee-based endeavor.

The coffee bar was first opened in this location because of its proximity to a college campus and its already high volume, the franchisee said. It also voiced hopes that the unit would become an afternoon snack or beverage option for students and other customers.

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