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Wendy’s names Kurt Kane U.S. president in leadership revamp

Abigail Pringle was named president, international and chief development officer as part of management restructuring.
Photograph courtesy of The Wendy's Co.

Kurt Kane was promoted to president of Wendy’s U.S. market and chief commercial officer as part of a leadership restructuring designed to accelerate the company’s expansion around the world.

Abigail Pringle was promoted to president, international and chief development officer.

Bob Wright, Wendy’s chief operations officer, plans to leave the Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain at the end of May.

The company said it created the two new positions as part of the “to continue to drive further accountability and efficiencies across the organization.”

“We see an opportunity to increase our effectiveness by driving clear accountabilities for our growth across the organization,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday.

Kane had been Wendy’s chief concept and marketing officer and was promoted to executive vice president in 2018. He will assume responsibilities for the entire U.S. business, including operations, marketing and research and development. He will also continue to lead the company’s digital organization.

Pringle had been with Wendy’s since 2002 and was promoted to chief global development officer a year ago. She will lead the company’s international business, including Canada, as well as development.

Wendy’s announced the reorganization in its first quarter earnings report, when it said same-store sales rose 1.3% in the first three months of the year in the U.S. and Canada, along with 3% growth in systemwide sales.

Traffic declined in the first quarter, the company said, as it shifted marketing to focus more on “product mix,” rather than value. The company said that the traffic declines were “expected,” as the chain lapped a successful Double Stack promotion from a year ago.

Wendy’s added a new premium line of burgers, called “Made to Crave.” It also launched its Biggie Bag late in the quarter. Penegor said the efforts are platforms that “will allow us to continue bringing new news for the future.”

Wendy’s said that its net income increased 58% in the first quarter, to $32 million from $20 million, in part due to a 110-basis point increase in profit margins at company restaurants, to 15% of revenues. The results sent the shares higher on Wednesday morning.  

Company executives said on Wendy’s first quarter earnings call Wednesday that they are focusing on improving customer experience, through a combination of training strategies and digital tools, to continue to drive sales.

That includes training systems to improve speed and consistency inside the chain’s restaurants, and executives said that they have already proven these efforts work inside its 350 company-operated locations.

The investments, Penegor said, demonstrate the advantage that larger companies have in the restaurant industry.

“Scale matters in the restaurant business,” he said. “It allows you to make investments in things such as enhanced training and tools. Those with scale will ultimately win.”

Wendy’s investments also include an extensive digital effort, including delivery, mobile order and payment, and in-store scanners.

The company has delivery in three-quarters of its more than 5,800 U.S. locations and plans to have the service in 80% of those restaurants by the end of the year. The company promoted delivery with free Baconator and Biggie Bags in the first quarter, and Penegor believes that generating more customer awareness of the service remains an opportunity for the chain in the future.

Wendy’s is also working to integrate mobile ordering into its system by the end of the year.  And it plans to have its digital scanners in the system by the end of the year.

“We believe that being successful in digital will be a competitive advantage for us, as customers are creating customization, speed, and convenience, all of which can be enhanced through our platforms,” Penegor said.

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