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After Popeyes’s Chicken Earns the Plaudits, Wendy’s Announces New Opening Blitz

American fast food chain is taken aback by U.K. success and accelerates expansion plans

The outside of a New York City Wendy’s burger restaurant, as it prepares to open its first U.K. restaurant in over two decades
A Wendy’s location in NYC. Soon, London and the U.K. will have many more of the fast food restaurants on its streets
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The Popeyes fried chicken sandwich may have earned the plaudits and generated the queues from its shiny new Westfield site, but it is rival American fast food chain Wendy’s which is hastening its U.K. expansion plans after its bosses have revealed the success of its Reading and London openings this summer.

As both the Financial Times and Big Hospitality report, Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s chief development officer, said the group will now aim to open 50 new restaurants in 2022, after initially pledging the more modest aim of 10 sites ahead of the first series of openings earlier this year. Pringle told the FT that revenues at sites in Reading, Oxford, and Stratford in London had been at levels “far more” than expected at £40,000 a week.

Like Popeyes, which has put an ambitious target of 350 U.K. sites in the coming years, the decision-makers at Wendy’s want to top that by opening 400. For context, there are 1300 McDonald’s in the U.K.; there are 900 branches of KFC.

Last week, as Popeyes made its debut at Stratford’s Westfield shopping centre, Wendy’s opened a fourth U.K. restaurant in Croydon, south London; and will soon open in Brighton, Romford and Camden.

The company is known for Twitter stunts, spicy nuggets, baconators, and frosty drinks, which Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton has called “truly the quintessential American fast-food dessert.”

It previously operated restaurants in the U.K. — in 1980 and then again in 1992 but gout out in 2001 “saying that property costs were too high and it needed to focus on its core US business,” the FT reports.

A combination of the collapse of so many of the U.K.’s biggest casual dining chains in recent years, coupled with the pandemic and Brexit, has reshaped the low-end landscape, giving those who can afford to go big the ability to to do that quickly. And of course the ability of brands to utilise social media means they no longer land in new territories with a standing start. Just look at these guys.

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