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When it comes to the concept of innovation among fast food chains, few are as successful as Wendy’s in the area of design innovation.
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“We’ve been a leader in designing innovative restaurants since day one with our pickup window, for 51 years,” said Abigail Pringle, President, International and Chief Development Officer of Wendy’s during a virtual call.
Pringle says food is still at the heart of the chain’s design strategy.
“How do we make sure that the design [not only] improves our food and restaurant experience, but how do we make sure the design really delivers the experience of where people work, live and play? “
Pringle says this mindset has been a recent shift for the brand, which has led to several activations, pop-ups, and kiosks at unique locations like colleges, hospitals, zoos, and even military bases.
“We want to be where people are, and we want to look at those opportunities, we want to look at those experiences that people want in their lives,” she explained.
From the brand’s mobile ordering app and curbside pickup to kiosks in dining rooms, Wendy’s goal in recent years has been not only to make customers’ lives easier, but to have a presence where customers already populate.
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Because for Pringle and the business as a whole, smart design improves performance and improves the overall customer experience.
“We’re definitely looking at what we can do to make sure we can improve the speed of service,” said Pringle. “We can also take the friction out of the experience, but we can also change everything from the moment you drive in the parking lot to the moment you place your order to the moment you collect your food and the moment you leave the dining room or picking up the window. “
This was seen with the launch of Wendy’s Smart 2.0 designs in 2017, which aimed to reduce the company’s energy footprint by using less water, less heat, smaller seats, and smaller display cases.
Of course, the concept of a smaller, more automated experience calls into question whether or not the company will reduce its workforce, although Pringle insists that these design initiatives lack the planning for the chain to reduce workers – in fact, it is far from reallocating the jobs that workers will do.
Whether it’s welcoming customers, helping them through the drive-thru experience, or overall engaging more with the customer, there are ways to use the chain workforce to make the customer experience more enjoyable.
“Workforce is an important part of our P&L and our business model, but we’re looking at how to use design to actually improve the experience and use that efficiency to actually reinvest in the customer and employee experience to improving throughput, which means increasing productivity in restaurants, but also improving the accuracy of our orders.
Wendy’s has also led the charge in the fast food world by implementing dark kitchens, which are delivery-only spots with no real sit-down restaurant space.
“[Dark kitchens have] our menu, great, high quality food and a commitment to everything people love about Wendy’s around convenience and affordability, but in a way we can actually go to some of the biggest cities in the world where we not “traditional restaurants,” explains Pringle. “In the United States, we only have one restaurant for 135,000 people in some of our larger metropolitan cities. These are people who 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 worldwide by 2025.
Wendy’s also hopes to expand its non-traditional development which will account for about 30% of the company’s development in 2021, which includes commercial areas such as hospitals, military bases, colleges and universities.
“I see no reason why we can’t meet and even exceed our long term goals,” Pringle said. “So excited about our growth plans. “
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