Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

We will win in India: Abigail Pringle of Wendy's

Despite a slow start, the president of the American burger company believes they are well on the way to scaling and growing in the region

Rajiv Singh
Published: May 20, 2021 11:28:51 AM IST
Updated: May 20, 2021 12:10:29 PM IST

We will win in India: Abigail Pringle of Wendy's

In India, the strike rate of Wendy’s, the American burger chain which reportedly overtook rival Burger King to become second biggest in the US, looks weird: Four restaurants in six years. When contrasted with over 270 outlets that Burger King opened in India during the same period, Wendy’s doesn’t look to be in a position to either give a fight or replay the famed US rivalry back in India.

The ground reality, though, doesn’t deter Abigail Pringle from sounding optimistic about the prospects of the burger giant in India. “We are playing a different game and challenging conventional thinking about how we grow the brand in India and around the world,” says Pringle, president (international) and chief development officer of The Wendy’s Company. The key for Wendy’s, she underlines, is scaling and growing the right way across the region. “This can take time, and we are well on our way,” she says in an exclusive email interview with Forbes India. “We have an accelerated global growth strategy,” she points out. Excerpts from an interview:

How do you see the progress of Wendy's in India in five years?
We are happy with the progress in India and see this market as a long-term growth opportunity. India is expected to be among the top three global economies by 2050 and is growing faster than most of the emerging and developed countries. We are playing a different game and challenging conventional thinking about how we grow the brand in India and around the world. The key for Wendy’s is scaling and growing the right way across the region. This can take time, and we are well on our way.

We believe our new partnership between Wendy’s, our existing franchisee Sierra Nevada Restaurants and Rebel Foods is truly exciting for our growth in India. Over the next decade, Sierra Nevada Restaurants will develop an additional 150 traditional Wendy’s restaurants and is supporting the development of approximately 250 cloud kitchens with Rebel Foods. We’ve opened more than 20 units in the last three months and have great confidence in our future.

In India, McDonald's, Burger King and KFC dominate the top three rankings in terms of outlets and sales. Given your neo-aggression in terms of focusing on delivery now, do you think this might help you to take on the big players?
Consumer behaviours are changing, and the pandemic caused us all to rethink how we meet consumers where and how they want to be met. Delivery is a growing channel for our brand around the world and India’s online food delivery segment is expected to grow significantly over the next several years. Customers want convenience and access to the brands they love, and we’re working to evolve our experience to bring Wendy’s to our fans anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Additionally, our digital business continues to accelerate across the globe. Internationally, our digital business grew to more than 10 percent on the strength of delivery. We know people are looking for fresh, high quality food that they can access quickly and safely, and Wendy’s is well positioned to offer customers speed and convenience through contactless channels such as delivery and mobile ordering.

How do you see the QSR industry panning out in a post-Covid world? Would emphasis on physical outlets be a thing of the past?
We know customers want choices and our goal is to offer a variety of ways in which people can access Wendy’s food. We believe there are customers who will always prefer to dine in, so brick-and-mortar restaurants will remain an essential component of our growth strategy.

What are the ways in which Wendy's differs from other players in India? Can the Queen finally get her throne?
At Wendy’s, the focus has been on quality since day one. Wendy’s does not cut corners, a commitment illustrated by our iconic square hamburgers. We’re focussed on offering consumers the high-quality, great tasting food that they deserve.

We have every reason to believe that we’ll win in India. Right now, the momentum across the Wendy’s business is strong. We just released our Q1 2021 earnings and shared that we delivered global same‐restaurant sales growth of 13 percent the first quarter. This exceeded our expectations and highlights the strength and momentum of both our US and International businesses.

We have an accelerated global growth strategy and we recently overtook Burger King to become the #2 burger brand in the US hamburger segment. Wendy’s is about to launch in the United Kingdom with expansion plans across Europe. So, with this move, we’ll also be able to serve our travelling Indian customers and the NRI community in even more places around the world.