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Wendy’s system buys into a new concept

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Wendy’s franchisee in Japan plans to convert all 136 units of First Kitchen, a local chain specializing in pasta, into a new concept called Wendy’s First Kitchen, featuring menu items from both brands.

The Wendy’s Co., the U.S.-based franchisor of the brand, said Wendy’s First Kitchen will be “a springboard for growth in the coming years,” but did not indicate whether the plan included development in the United States.

Wendy’s Japanese franchisee, Wendy’s Japan, has been quietly testing two Wendy’s First Kitchens in Tokyo since last year. The Wendy’s Co. said the two test sites “have performed well,” but did not divulge details.

The U.S. franchisor announced this morning that Wendy’s Japan intends in the wake of the experiment to acquire First Kitchen from Suntory Holdings Ltd., the global beverage company, by the end of June.

The price was not disclosed.

Funding was apparently generated by the sale of an undisclosed stake in Wendy’s Japan to The Longreach Group, an Asian private-equity group.

"The First Kitchen restaurant brand is well-established with a presence in many desirable, busy locations throughout Japan,” said Bob Wright, COO of The Wendy’s Co. “We anticipate the acquisition will leverage the strengths of both Wendy's and First Kitchen, while providing a springboard for growth in the coming years."

Wendy’s has bought and sold a number of other restaurant concepts in its 47-year history, going back to its experimentation with Sisters, a fried-chicken-and-biscuits chain.

More recently, it owned Tim Hortons, Baja Fresh, Cafe Express and Pasta Pomodoro. All were divested while the Wendy’s brand struggled with a sales slowdown roughly a decade ago.

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