Wendy's names a former PepsiCo executive to be its next CEO

The burger chain said that Kirk Tanner will lead the company into its “next phase of growth and expansion.” He replaces Todd Penegor.
Wendy's will get a new CEO in 2024 in Kirk Tanner. | Photo courtesy of Wendy's.

Wendy’s on Thursday made an unexpected change at the top, naming former PepsiCo executive Kirk Tanner to be the company’s next CEO.

Tanner will replace Todd Penegor, who has been an executive with Wendy’s for more than a decade, the last eight as its chief executive.

Tanner most recently was the CEO of North American Beverages with PepsiCo and has more than 30 years of experience across beverages and foodservice. The North American Beverages business was a $26 billion business, representing about 30% of PepsiCo’s overall business.

He also has sizable experience in the foodservice world, having previously overseen PepsiCo’s foodservice division, one he expanded with a series of strategic partnerships, new product lines and deals with sports leagues and restaurant chains.

Nelson Peltz, Wendy’s chairman, called Tanner “a proven operational leader whose customer-centric mindset and broad experience positioning and growing some of the most well-known global brands make him the ideal candidate to lead Wendy’s into its next phase of growth and expansion.”

Tanner takes over at a time of substantial change at the Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s, which has restructured much of its corporate staff in recent months.

Kirk Tanner Wendy's

Kirk Tanner | Photo courtesy of Wendy's.

A year ago, Chairman Peltz opted not to buy the company, opting instead for a reorganization that shrunk the size of the executive team, while giving the CEO a bigger role in the day-to-day operations. The company also opted to pay a bigger dividend and spend more on share buybacks.

Wendy’s in December reportedly faced potential activist pressure threatening to nominate “several directors” to the company’s board.

Penegor guided Wendy’s through the pandemic and its successful foray into the breakfast business—one made despite several previous efforts that failed to gain any traction. He also guided the chain during a period in which the company leapfrogged struggling longtime rival Burger King to become the nation’s second largest fast-food burger concept.

Yet Wendy’s also had several initiatives that never took off, notably an aggressive deal to put restaurants in 700 delivery-only locations run by the ghost kitchen operator Reef Kitchens. Wendy’s pulled out of that deal less than two years later.

“Through his leadership, Wendy’s has driven strong growth in sales, earnings and new restaurant counts, forging an industry-leading partnership with the franchise community and a robust digital business,” Peltz said.

Wendy’s operates more than 7,000 locations, most of which are in the U.S.

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