Case Study Discussion (Wendy’s)

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The Wendy’s Company (Wendy’s) is one of America’s most iconic fast food chains. Founded by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969, it is currently the third-largest hamburger chain in the United States.

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Wendy’s has a strong presence in the United States, but not in foreign markets, despite a long history of international expansion. Wendy’s first foray into global markets occurred in 1976, when the company opened a restaurant in Canada. Since then, Wendy’s has opened restaurants in many foreign countries including Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey, Guatemala, and Italy. Wendy’s has at times struggled in the global arena, with failed ventures in Argentina, South Korea, Hong Kong, Russia, and Singapore. While Wendy’s is operating in 32 countries, it has only 637 restaurants operating outside of the United States.

This case deals with the international expansion plans of a fast food giant. Wendy’s international presence is poor, and growth in domestic markets is difficult to achieve as fast food is no longer growing in the United States. Further, the company faces fierce competition from competitors in both the fast food industry and the fast-casual dinning industry. However, there is high growth potential in a number of international markets. In May 2018, the company’s chief executive officer, Todd A. Penegor, needs to determine which foreign market(s) to target as well as


Case Discussion Questions:

  1. What impact (if any) could Wendy’s prior failures in international markets have on its current expansion effort?
  2. What challenges or issues might Wendy’s face in making a significant expansion into Africa?
  3. Using the marketing mix (i.e., product, price, place, promotion), determine what changes Wendy’s might have to make to its operations if it opens restaurants in the foreign markets highlighted in the case.
  4. Imagine that Wendy’s will open 1000 restaurants in a foreign market(s). Which foreign market(s) would you suggest it enter, and how many restaurants would you suggest it open in each market?



    Fabrizio Di Muro wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion. The author does not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The author may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.

    This publication may not be transmitted, photocopied, digitized, or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the permission of the copyright holder. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, N6G 0N1; (t) 519.661.3208; (e);

    Copyright © 2018, Ivey Business School Foundation Version: 2018-08-13

    In May 2018 in the United States, Wendy’s faced an important decision related to its international markets. The company had a small international presence: of its more than 6,500 restaurants worldwide, only 637 were located in international markets. The company was faced with a saturated and stagnating U.S. market as well as fierce competition from a number of fast food rivals including McDonald’s Corporation (McDonald’s), Burger King Corporation (Burger King), and Carl’s Jr. Restaurants LLC (Carl’s Jr.), and the surest path to growth seemed to be expansion into foreign markets, where fast food was still growing.2 Todd A. Penegor, Wendy’s chief executive officer, needed to determine which international market(s) to target and how many restaurants to open in each market.


    Basic Information and Product Menu

    Wendy’s was founded by Dave Thomas on November 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. As of May 2018, Wendy’s was headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, and was the third-largest hamburger chain (behind McDonald’s and Burger King), with over 6,500 restaurants, most of which were located in North America. By 2017, the majority of the company’s restaurants were franchised locations—only 637 of the company’s restaurants were company owned and operated. Further, Wendy’s franchise agreements were such that Wendy’s controlled the exterior store appearance, food quality, and menu, while franchisees determined the hours of operation, interior décor, pricing, uniforms, and wages.3

    Wendy’s menu centred on hamburgers, French fries, chicken sandwiches, and its signature Frosty dessert, arguably Wendy’s most famous and well-known offering.4 The Frosty, a soft-serve ice cream dessert offered in vanilla and chocolate flavours, had also been sold as an ice cream float. Recently, the company had introduced Frosty Shakes—a Frosty blended with either vanilla bean, strawberry, or chocolate fudge syrup.

    For years, Wendy’s signature hamburgers had been its single, double, and triple burgers, which featured a square patty (as opposed to a round one). However, in 2011, the company replaced its iconic hamburgers with the release of the Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy line—thicker patties were introduced and the classic square edges were eliminated. A number of other changes were introduced: the cheese was stored at a warmer temperature, which meant that it melted over the patty. Changes were made to the bun as well as to the

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    produce and condiments—white onions replaced red onions, and mustard was eliminated as a condiment. While the new line of burgers was re-named as Dave’s, the words single, double, and triple were retained.5

    In 2012, Wendy’s decided to reintroduce breakfast offerings in its North American outlets. The company had unsuccessfully attempted to roll out a breakfast menu in both 1985 and 2007. In May 2018, Wendy’s typical breakfast offerings included breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos. In January 2014, the company introduced its Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger, which featured a quarter-pound beef patty, aged Asiago cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, rosemary garlic aioli, and oven-roasted tomatoes. This item was originally intended to be offered for only a limited time, but due to its success, Wendy’s decided to feature it permanently. Recently, the company introduced a black bean burger, containing (as of May 2018) black beans, wild rice, farro, onions, brown rice, carrots, quinoa, corn, and green and red bell peppers. Sauces and seasonings for the black bean burger typically included red wine vinegar, chili peppers, cumin, cilantro, oregano, and sea salt.6

    Wendy’s had also introduced the Baconator. In May 2018, this burger was available in three different varieties: the Single Baconator, the Double Baconator, and the Triple Baconator. The Single was composed of a quarter-pound patty accompanied by mayonnaise, ketchup, three slices of bacon, and two slices of cheese, while the Double consisted of a half-pound patty, mayonnaise, ketchup, six slices of bacon, and three slices of cheese. The Triple featured a three-quarter-pound patty, mayonnaise, ketchup, nine slices of bacon, and four slices of cheese.7

    International Locations

    Wendy’s first foray into an international market occurred when it opened an outlet in Hamilton, Canada, in 1976. The first European outlet soon followed, when Wendy’s opened a restaurant in Munich, Germany, in 1979.8 In the early 1980s, the company entered the Asian market. Restaurants were opened in Japan in 1980, in Hong Kong in 1982, in the Philippines and Singapore in 1983, and in South Korea in 1984.9 However, the company closed all restaurants in Hong Kong in 1986 and in Singapore in 1987 in response to an economic slowdown. From 1988 to 1990, Wendy’s opened outlets in a number of international markets: Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey, Guatemala, and Italy.10

    In 1996, Wendy’s opened 18 restaurants in Argentina, but by 2000 all of these had been closed. By that time, Wendy’s had also exited the South Korean market, as well as the United Kingdom and Hong Kong markets.11 Wendy’s re-entered Singapore in 2009; however, by April 2015, it had closed all restaurants and exited that market. In 2011, Wendy’s re-entered Japan and Argentina by opening 50 restaurants in each country. The company also expanded to Russia; but by 2014, Wendy’s had closed all of its restaurants in that country. In 2013, Wendy’s entered the country of Georgia, and in 2015 it entered India (see Exhibit 1).12


    The following markets were identified by industry experts as having high growth potential:


    In May 2018, the fast food industry was in the nascent stages in Africa. However, some industry experts predicted that the African fast food market would experience significant growth in coming years. These experts pointed to a changing lifestyle as the key reason for the growth of fast food in Africa. In May 2018,

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    this changing lifestyle was being driven by a rising middle class and rising incomes in many African countries. As a result, people had greater disposable income and were likely to need food on the go. 13

    “As incomes rise and all of the usual emerging market dynamics are in play, such as urbanization, [and] more hectic lifestyles, many people in Africa are also gaining access to chained/branded restaurants for the first time,” commented Elizabeth Friend, a strategy analyst with Euromonitor International. Friend also pointed to curiosity as another factor in the potential growth of fast food in Africa (especially since people were posting their culinary experiences online, through various social media): “They’re curious about the foods their peers are eating and the restaurants they are going to, and they’re eager for a chance to try them out for themselves.”14

    Other analysts agreed that the African fast food market could see significant growth: “In Africa as a whole, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, we’re starting to see real growth in terms of the number of households with the kind of disposable income that can support eating out,” commented Michael Schaefer, head of Consumer Foodservice at Euromonitor International. “If we look at just South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Kenya, you’re now seeing about 16 million households with disposable incomes of [US]$5,000 a year or more, which is not a great deal, but is often considered the level when people might start to eat out on a regular basis,” indicated Schaefer.15

    Although Africa was considered to be a relatively new market in May 2018, some North American fast food companies had already established operations in Africa by that time. In May 2018, KFC Corporation (KFC)(formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) was the market leader in Africa, with 840 restaurants across various countries—South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, and Uganda—while McDonald’s was second with 387 restaurants across six countries—South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Mauritius, and Tunisia. By May 2018, Burger King had also established a presence in Africa, with 120 restaurants in Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa.16

    Within Africa, a few markets were identified as having potential for growth:


    Egypt, a country with a population of approximately 92 million, was expected to experience continued population growth. Most experts forecasted that the country’s population would grow by 2.2 per cent annually for the foreseeable future. Most of Egypt’s population was located along a narrow strip of the Nile River, and in May 2018, its population was young, with a median age of 25.3 years. The main language spoken in Egypt was Arabic, and the most practised religion in the country was Islam; Christianity was the second most practiced religion (see Exhibits 2 and 3). Traditionally, Egypt’s economy had relied on agriculture, tourism, and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad. By May 2018, a booming economy, increased tourism, and a greater number of people in the workforce contributed to rising incomes among the country’s consumers. With additional disposable income, Egyptian consumers had become much more interested in eating out at restaurants. As a result, significant growth of the Egyptian fast food market had already occurred; for instance, in 2016 alone, the casual dining segment grew by 24 per cent, and substantial future growth was expected. In particular, significant growth was expected to occur in Cairo (the country’s capital city), not only because of its large population (22 million people), but also because of its status as the centre for tourism and commerce in Egypt.17

    McDonald’s and Burger King had entered Egypt earlier, and by May 2018, McDonald’s had 78 restaurants in Egypt, and Burger King had 68 restaurants in the country.18 In May 2018, there were also two major Egyptian fast food chains, Cook Door and Mo’men. Both chains were established in 1988 and based in Cairo. Cook Door mainly focused on sandwiches and meals, while Mo’men mainly featured sandwiches.

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    The former had had one location until 2013 but had recently expanded to feature multiple locations, while the latter boasted approximately 30 locations in May 2018.19

    South Africa

    In early 2018, South Africa’s population totalled approximately 50.7 million. Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the country had peacefully transitioned to a multi-party democracy. A total of 11 different languages were spoken in South Africa in early 2018. The language spoken by the greatest number of citizens was Zulu, followed by Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. The country’s dominant religion was Christianity, but Islam and indigenous beliefs were also practised. By May 2018, South Africa was fuelled by mining and agriculture, and its economy had become one of Africa’s largest and most stable.20 In recent years, South Africa had seen rising incomes and a growing number of women in its workforce. These factors led to greater disposable incomes for the country’s consumers, which, coupled with increasingly busy lifestyles, led to more people eating out. This buoyed fast food consumption in the country. In addition, an expansion of the country’s middle class had also helped the fast food industry to grow substantially in recent years.21

    By May 2018, the South African fast food market had become somewhat established, as the top 10 fast food companies had opened over 3,600 locations in the country. Yet signs of future growth were still present. A large number (over 80 per cent) of South African consumers purchased fast food at least once a month, and this number was expected to grow, as approximately 42 million people were expected to have purchased at least one fast food meal by May 2018. Further, growth in the fast food sector was expected to increase by 9 per cent in both 2018 and 2019, while the number of takeout restaurants was expected to increase by 4 per cent each year during this time span. In addition, the country’s retail growth rate was expected to grow by 3–5 per cent in 2019.22

    American fast food companies had established operations in South Africa. McDonald’s first restaurant in South Africa opened in 1995, and by the start of 2018 the company had over 200 restaurants across nine provinces. Burger King first opened its doors in South Africa in May 2013, and by May 2018 it had 70 outlets in operation.23 In May 2018, a number of local South African fast food competitors existed, such as Steers, Wimpy, and Nando’s. Steers offered flame-broiled hamburgers and homemade chips (fries). Wimpy, a South African chain with American roots, featured classic fast food fare such as hamburgers, chips, and breakfast items. Nando’s featured Portuguese-style peri peri chicken—chicken served with peri peri, a Portuguese chili sauce—as well as a number of other Mozambique–Portuguese chicken dishes. While Nando’s operated in South Africa, it had also expanded to Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.24

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