Wendy’s, the American fast food burger restaurant, is making plans to open a first U.K. restaurant in Reading. The brand, which will join the likes of Five Guys, Shake Shack, Wingstop, and Taco Bell — which have all made inroads into the British market in the last half decade — has submitted plans and confirmed its intention to open in the English town in 2021, according to Berkshire Live.
A spokesperson told the local news outlet that Wendy’s planned “on entering the market with company owned and operated restaurants in early 2021. The brand is very much looking forward to it and excited about the future as we enter this market.” The plan to take over the former Nationwide bank premises on Station Road in Reading appear to confirm the brand’s announcement last October that Britain would be the brand’s “beach head for European expansion.”
It won’t be a British debut for Wendy’s but will mark a return for the fast food restaurant, which closed its last U.K. restaurant in 2000 and which today operates 6,000 sites across the world. It ran 10 U.K. restaurants in the 1990s, including on Cambridge Circus in central London, according to Big Hospitality.
Reading, as it happens, was the location chosen by another American fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, which opened at the Oracle shopping centre last October. Although it appeared on the verge of a major European expansion, it announced its closure just eight days later, following pressure and protests at its anti-LGBTQ record.
The dual impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced an almost four-month closure on restaurants, and the spectre of Brexit having already cast uncertainty on the U.K. restaurant market, will surely mean more permanent closures and ongoing struggles for domestic operators. Such conditions will force change on an industry that will have to adapt to new consumer behaviour and wrestle with a widely predicted and significant economic downturn. That in turn could open the door for more international chain expansions.