by David Klemt

Wendy’s Looks to Ghosts for Growth

by David Klemt

Wendy's fast food restaurant exterior and sign

Wendy’s is the latest foodservice company to announce plans to open ghost kitchens in Canada, the US and the UK.

The fast-food giant’s scheme is large-scale and part of an expansive growth strategy.

Per the company, Wendy’s plans to open 700 ghost kitchens.

Embracing the Trend

Here’s a question for you: Do you hear and read the word “pivot” or the phrase “ghost kitchen” more often these days?

Ghost kitchens seem to be the pivot of choice for restaurant groups and enterprising tech companies looking to leverage the next big thing. (There, a sentence with both “pivot” and “ghost kitchen” in it,)

The trend also appears more often than not to be the domain of Big Business.

Former Uber executive Travis Kalanick is the founder of CloudKitchens. DoorDash is also entering the ghost kitchen space, running a trial in California to see if pursuing the idea is viable.

Now, enter Wendy’s, not exactly a mom-and-pop shop in the restaurant space.

Ghost vs. Virtual Kitchen

We don’t revel in the semantics game, necessarily. But we know people are going to refer to Wendy’s ghost locations as “virtual” kitchens as well.

However, ghost kitchens and virtual kitchens have unique definitions and characteristics.

Wendy’s isn’t creating a new brand with new items they’re preparing in their existing brick-and-mortar locations. Nor do they plan to do so with their new locations under constructions currently.

Were that the case, their strategy would be a virtual kitchen plan.

Instead, the 700 locations will be separate facilities without storefronts. Also, the units will focus solely on delivery, leveraging on-demand consumer behavior.

So, the lack of storefront is arguably the greatest defining characteristic of a ghost kitchen.

Conversely, a virtual kitchen operates in a location with a storefront. However, the brand on offer exists online and not in the brick-and-mortar world of an established brand. In essence, an existing brand is offering a brand that they don’t want to dilute what they’ve already built.

That’s a Lot of Ghosts

Per reporting, Wendy’s is joining forces with Reef Technology to open and operate their ghost kitchens.

At least 50 such locations are in the works to open this year. The other several hundred locations will open between 2022 and 2025.

That means we should see more than 150 Wendy’s ghost kitchens going live per year across Canada, the US and the UK.

Partnering with Reef Technology is an interesting and telling maneuver. Reef, per their website, focuses on “urbanization” and reshaping “our urban infrastructure.”

And as CEO Todd Penelow stated last week, Wendy’s doesn’t isn’t strong in urban areas. The vision for Wendy’s new strategy is to penetrate urban markets, adding new stores and new franchisees as the brand moves forward.

Should things go according to plan, Wendy’s expects to expand from 6,500 units worldwide to somewhere between 8,500 and 9,000 in 2025.

Image: Michael Form from Pixabay