If there’s one big takeaway to glean from Wendy’s first-quarter 2019 earnings call, which took place on Wednesday, it’s that the quick-service burger chain is ramping up its tech game in a big way.
Not that the Dublin, OH-based company was slacking. Prior to Wednesday’s call, Wendy’s had already installed self-serve kiosks in about 75 percent of its (North American) stores, accelerated its delivery program with DoorDash, and made progress on redesigning existing stores to better serve the digital needs QSRs in 2019 must meet.
Based on the transcript from this week’s earnings call, those initiatives have so far paid off. CEO Todd Penegor noted on the call that Wendy’s saw “system-wide sales growth” and that the company continues “to make meaningful progress with [its] consumer-facing digital capabilities.”
That progress includes further expansion of its delivery program, which Penegor said “continues to pace ahead of expectations.” The company plans to have 80 percent of its North American system available for delivery by the end of 2019, along with a more streamlined mobile app that will integrate DoorDash and make off-premise ordering an easier experience for customers. Mobile ordering will be available across the North American Wendy’s market by the end fo the year. (It currently operates in 75 percent of North America.)
A newer initiative for Wendy’s is the introduction of digital scanners, which are part of Wendy’s $25 billion investment in digital initiatives. Penegor said on the call the company plans to have scanners in all its restaurants by the end of 2019. Speed is the obvious benefit here, as the technology will allow employees to simply scan mobile coupons on orders, rather than keying them into a POS system, as was done previously.
For a QSR, however, providing speed at scale is almost important as the quick turnaround times themselves. Penegor said as much on the call, going as far as to say that scale “allows you to make investments in such things as enhanced training and tools, and that those with scale will ultimately win.”
Wendy’s celebrated its 50th birthday this year, but in terms of digital adoption, it has moved slower than McDonald’s, whose aggressive “experience of the future” redesign and foray into personalized recommendations have garnered much attention of late. That said, so has its ongoing battle with its franchisees, for whom all this new technology is sometimes more of an albatross around the neck than a revenue generator.
Wendy’s hasn’t reported any such friction as yet, so it will be important to keep an eye on the company as it scales its tech plans across the continent. They may not have a Dynamic Yield-like deal in the works yet (that we know of), but they could be creating a solid blueprint for growth worth mimicking in future.