Foodism

Look ma – no beef! Wendy’s goes local in India

DELHI

wendy-logo-nhFood will be served at your table, and in plates. It will be pricier than the average Aloo Tikki burger from across the road. For regulars, yes the Baconator, Frosty and the Smoky Chipotle are there, but so are a number of unique offerings only for Wendy’s in India, such as the Spicy Aloo Crunch burger (very different from its cousin in a different brand) and Masala Chai.

Wendy’s, one of US’ mega QSR (quick service restaurants) with over 6,500 outlets in 31 countries, has just opened its first outlet in India in Gurgaon, and it aims to stand out in an increasingly crowded Indian QSR market.

Sanjay-Chabbra
Sanjay Chabbra says the team in India has spent two years trying to get the menu right in India

So why will the average person pay more for their burger? Directors of Sierra Nevada Restaurants, the franchisee for Wendy’s in India, Sanjay Chhabra, and Jasper Reid are at pains to point out the ways in which Wendy’s is going to be different. From the aforementioned service and uniquely Indian dishes, Chhabra says the team “spent two years developing every aspect of the Wendy’s customer offer while retaining the core identity and values of the brand”. So while the look and feel of the restaurants has been updated for India with an emphasis on warmth, local materials, elements that link it back to its American roots are also present.

Chhabra is quick to claim that the format is fast casual or QSR+ rather than QSR, though it might take a while for the young Indian customer to register the difference. The target are the ‘millennials’ – those who have been around and seen the world, he says. “Customer tastes are evolving and this is a value for money market,” he says. “There is a customer that aspires for superior products.”

The Ghost-Chilli Burger
The Ghost Chilli Burger is among the original offerings on the menu

Prices of burgers at Wendy’s will start from around Rs 59, though most items are priced in triple digits. The menu is rather vast, and besides burgers, meanders through salads, baked potatoes, chili bowls and natural cut French fries. Fruit drinks, sodas, tea and coffee complete the beverage section. What comes from the US are the flavours – sauces such as the Ghost Chili or the barbeque while the chicken patty format is the same as developed in the company R&D centre in Arkansas.

The average store size at 2000 to 2500 feet2 – will have seating for about 80, though in a variety of formats. The outlet music playlist is by Coke Studio.

wendy-Frosty-nv
The popular Frosty

Following its QSR counterparts in US, Wendy’s has been on an expansion drive, with Brazil being other country it opened in simultaneously with India. Emil Brolick, Wendy’s President and Chief Executive Officer said: “India is a growing, dynamic market, which is attracting the attention of leading brands around the world.”

Chhabra admits that the brand is not as well known in India as its competitors, but is confident exposure to the brand will work wonders for the brand. Expansion in India will be slower though, with the focus for the next two years only on Delhi NCR. “In the first year of operation, we propose to add eight to ten outlets of Wendy’s in Delhi-National Capital Region,” say the directors and follow it up with a similar number in year two.

They do see potential however to carve a niche in the Indian food services market, which is valued at about Rs 3 lakh crore. While the branded segment is still small, there have been sporadic bursts of rapid growth, especially when the economy has been strong. Chhabra sees a big gap for QSR plus, and is open to exploring the food court model later on. “India is an underpenetrated market for the restaurant sector,” is his irrefutable claim. It is also one with the highest rate of turnover and the future of Wendy’s could well depend on how the initial response to QSR with a twist is.

Suman Tarafdar

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