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Wendy’s is proof that digital innovation is transforming the major fast food chains

The burger player’s digital pivot is paying massive dividends as it pursues new frontiers in service, real estate and dayparts.


The major quick-service chains might not have been the earliest adopters of digital ordering, but they could stand to benefit the most from the restaurant industry’s ongoing digital transformation.

Just look at Wendy’s. The Columbus, Ohio-based burger chain, which reported more than $11 billion in sales last year, has made digital acceleration one of its three core strategic growth pillars (along with the breakfast daypart and footprint expansion). And CEO Todd Penegor said the company has only scratched the surface with digital penetration; Wendy’s reported that digital channels accounted for roughly 10% of sales in 2021.

Along with the clear white space that number suggests, digital orders make for much more efficient business at Wendy’s.

“Delivery checks are 40-50% higher on an average basis, apples to apples, without the delivery fees,” Penegor told Nation’s Restaurant News. “[They’re a] much bigger order size. You think about mobile grab and go and curbside delivery; people are getting into our app, they are mobile ordering, [and it] speeds up the experience at the drive thru, makes it easier for the consumer as well as the employee. And those things will continue to drive our business.”

Digital acceleration is also fueling Wendy’s expansion plans. The company inked a deal with Reef Kitchens last year to open 700 delivery kitchens by 2025 in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. That will especially help Wendy’s grow into more urban areas where it doesn’t have as significant of a presence.

And this doesn’t even take into consideration Wendy’s just-announced entry into the metaverse. The so-called Wendyverse, opening April 2, is a virtual-reality restaurant where Wendy’s fans can interact with each other and enjoy an immersive brand experience.

In this episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, Penegor joined NRN’s editor in chief for a discussion on Wendy’s digital acceleration and how it’s been key to so much of the brand’s growth.

In this conversation, you’ll find out why: 

  • Mobile ordering is a huge win for the major QSRs 
  • There’s always some white space out there for bigger chains, no matter their reach
  • Investing in digital requires a complete ecosystem built around convenience
  • The more consumers ordering digitally, the better
  • Value’s all relative in the midst of inflation

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

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