Wendy’s is going big into India, but not in the traditional sense.
The Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain on Tuesday announced a 400-unit agreement with Rebel Foods and Sierra Nevada Restaurants to greatly expand the brand’s presence in the populous nation.
Yet only 150 of those locations will be traditional restaurants, which Sierra Nevada will develop. The remaining 250 will be Wendy’s ghost kitchens operated by Rebel Foods—the world’s largest operator of online restaurants with some 300 cloud kitchens in India, UAE, Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom.
The deal “reflects Wendy’s commitment to growing our international business in strategic, high-growth potential markets through both traditional restaurant expansion and digital innovation,” said Abigail Pringle, president of international and chief development officer for Wendy’s.
While rivals McDonald’s and Burger King both have a massive presence in international markets, Wendy’s remains largely a U.S. brand. Fewer than 1,000 of its 6,800 global restaurants were outside the U.S. at the end of 2019, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.
Wendy’s has vowed to change that. It views ghost kitchens as one potential avenue for international growth.
The company recently inked a deal with Reef Kitchens to expand into Canada, for instance, and occupies space inside ghost kitchens in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines in addition to the U.S.
Yet the India agreement is its biggest yet and will quickly get Wendy’s into more markets in India. Kallol Banerjee, co-founder of Rebel Foods, called it “a game-changing partnership.”
“By partnering with the Rebel Foods network of existing kitchens in India, Wendy’s will get immediate access to rapid scale across the country, at far lower levels of capital,” Banerjee said in a statement. ‘We have always wanted to partner with a world-class burger brand, and this partnership with a globally beloved name is a fantastic addition to our portfolio.”
Sierra Nevada launched Wendy’s in India in 2015 and operates four traditional restaurants and five inside cloud kitchens in Delhi’s National Capital Region. “We know that convenience is king and customers want Wendy’s everywhere,” Sierra Nevada CEO Jasper Reid said in a statement. “Omnichannel is key and a game-changer for QSR.”