Twitter-stunting, Frosty-toting, spicy chicken nugget-slinging American chain Wendy’s has begun its long-promised push into the U.K. by opening a restaurant in Reading and sticking a three-foot-tall gold statue of a frozen drink on the outside of it. The Reading opening has been in the works since 2019, with the brand announcing its oddly war-like plans for the U.K. as a “beach head for expansion” in 2018.
Its menu is as might be expected: square burgers; its flagship menu item, the Baconator, and its other flagship menu item, the Frosty (that frozen drink); spicy chicken nuggets that actually have some heat and aren’t just regular chicken nuggets with a spray tan. The “black and white” Frosty — an off-menu swirl of chocolate and vanilla — captivated Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton sufficiently for him to declare it “truly the quintessential American fast-food dessert.”
To recap, this is not a debut, with the brand departing the U.K. for the first time in the early 2000s; it is now as much known for its hyperactive Twitter presence as its food; it has blamed income equality for sales stagnation in the U.S. despite its starting wages being as low as $8 an hour; it has refused to sign up to the Fair Food Program that regulates against abuse in the agricultural industry. Wendy’s workers routinely join strikes around the Fight for $15, pushing for a rise in the minimum wage. It promises “no-zero hours” for U.K. employees, but doesn’t detail a starting salary.
It’s also not the only American chain to stare across the Atlantic, see a property market whose bottom has fallen out thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and rub its hands together in a Mr. Burns-bothering malevolent glee. Taco Bell is consolidating its inroads into the U.K.; fried chicken chain Popeyes is making plans for “hundreds of restaurants.” And while most fast food restaurants’ labour and agriculture practices don’t stand up to much scrutiny, only Chick-fil-A — another American fast food brand — saw its U.K. attempt implode entirely over its historic ties to anti-LGBTQ+ religious groups. In a market already dominated by huge U.S. players, Wendy’s will have to wait and see if its actual arrival lives up to its 280-character hypebeast.