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Wendy's Burgers UK Expansion: One Burger Flip Too Many?

London Retail
You want fries with that?

Wendy's, the U.S. burger chain that positions itself a notch or two above McDonald's, is to launch in the UK. The Ohio-based enterprise is hoping a 20-outlet UK expansion can lead its global growth plans, This is Money reports.

Can it work? Bisnow dons a silly paper hat, grabs a patty flipper, and asks the key questions about the Wendy's move.

1. To Eat In Or Take Out?

Wendy's has been in, and out, of the UK before. Nineteen years ago, before most of their potential customers were born, Wendy's abandoned a 10-strong UK restaurant portfolio as it retreated to the United States. It exited stores in London's Theatreland, King's Cross and Oxford Street and in a handful of regional cities, with McDonald's picking up many of the best locations.

Wendy's withdrew in 2000 citing the UK's high property and operating costs. Presumably, second time around, it has a business plan that can cope with both.

2. You Want Fries With That?

Lots of people don't even want a burger with their burger, let alone fries, as a series of gourmet burger chain closures and scale-backs suggest. Gourmet Burger Kitchen closed 24 restaurants in the wake of a company voluntary arrangement, although sales are now picking up. Rival Byron Burger closed a third of its UK outlets, and is now trying to reposition itself after suffering a CVA of its own.

Either the UK appetite for burgers is not as great as the burger vendors hoped, or those rents and operating costs are a real headache after all. Wendy's had better review that business plan one last time.

3. Anything Else?

The UK context is very different from that in the U.S., as U.S. fast-food giant Chick-fil-A recently discovered in Reading.

Chick-fil-A's first UK location opened at the town's Oracle shopping centre on 8 October for a six month pilot. Eight days later it announced it would not renew its lease after the political slant of a foundation associated with the company attracted serious criticism.

Wendy's has its own political connections to negotiate: one of its hedge fund owners is reported to be donors to President Donald Trump's campaign. There are also reports its political action committee gives overwhelmingly to Republicans and has supported right-wing Republicans who opposed LGBT marriage rights, exactly the problem that unsettled Chick-fil-A in Reading.