May
13, 2021

4 min read

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When it comes to the concept of innovation among fast-food chains, few succeed in the design innovation space as much as Wendy’s.

“We’ve been a leader in innovative restaurant designs since day one with our pickup window, for 51 years,” Abigail Pringle, President, International and Chief Development Officer of Wendy’s said in a virtual call.

Pringle says that food is always at the heart of the chain’s design strategy.

“How do we make sure that design [not only] enhances our food and our restaurant experience, but how do we make sure that design is really delivering on the experience of where people work, live, and play?”

Pringle says that this mindset has been a recent shift for the brand, which has led to several activations, pop-ups and kiosks in unique places like colleges, hospitals, zoos, and even military bases.

“We want to be where people are, and we want to look at those occasions, we want to look at those experiences that people are wanting in their lives,” she explained.

From the brand’s mobile order app, to curbside pickup to kiosks in the dining rooms, Wendy’s objective in recent years has been to not only make the lives of customers easier, but to have a presence where customers are already populating.

Related: 6 Innovative Ways to Increase Brand Awareness

Because to Pringle and the company at large, smart design drives better performance and makes for a better overall customer experience.

“We definitely look at what we can do to make sure we can improve speed of service,” Pringle says. “We can also take the friction out of the experience, but also change everything from when you drive up on the parking lot to when you place your order to when you get your food and to when you leave through the dining room or through the pickup window.”

This was seen in the launch of Wendy’s Smart 2.0 designs in 2017 which aimed to decrease the company’s energy footprint by using less water, less heating, smaller seating areas and smaller storefront sizes.

Of course, the concept of smaller and more automated experience calls into question whether or not the company will downsize its labor force, though Pringle insists that these design initiatives do not have the chain planning to reduce workers — in fact, it’s away to reallocate the jobs that workers will be doing.

Whether it’s greeting customers, assisting them through the drive-thru experience or overall just engaging more with the customer, there are ways to use the chains labor force to make the customer experience more enjoyable.

“Labor is an important part of our P& L and economic model but we look at how can we use design to really enhance the experience, and use that efficiency to really reinvest in the customer and employee experience to drive better throughput meaning drive more productivity in the restaurants, but also improve our order accuracy.”

Wendy’s has also led the charge in the fast-food world by the implementation of dark kitchens, which are delivery-only locations without an actual sit-in restaurant area.

“[Dark kitchens have] our menu, great high-quality food, and a commitment to all the things that people love about Wendy’s around convenience and great affordable price, but in a way that where we can actually go into some of the biggest cities around the world where we don’t have traditional restaurants,” Pringle explains. “In the U.S. we only have one restaurant for every 135,000 people in some of our biggest metro cities. That’s people that have to give up on having Wendy’s and we don’t want to have that, so we want to bring Wendy’s to people through convenience and delivery, and we think these dark kitchens can help us do that.”

The company hopes to continue its innovative footprint as it hopes to reach 8,000 locations globally by 2025, expanding its growth by 30 percent.

“I can’t see any reason why we can’t achieve and even exceed our goals for the long term,” Pringle said. “So really excited about our growth projects.”

Related: Here’s Why So Many Fast Food Logos Are Red

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Roland Millaner