American burger giant Wendy’s has revealed plans for “hypergrowth” in Australia, plotting to open more than 200 restaurants through the new owner of Pizza Hut’s domestic operations.
On Wednesday, Wendy’s revealed it has chosen US franchise giant Flynn Restaurant Group to launch its Australian wing under an exclusive master franchise agreement.
Under the plan, Flynn Restaurant Group, which already operates 190 Wendy’s locations in North America, will establish local Wendy’s locations from 2025 through to 2034.
The deal will add to Flynn Restaurant Group’s recent expansion in Australia through its acquisition of Pizza Hut Australia, which it agreed to purchase from Allegro in June this year.
The news marks one of the most significant new entries to the Australian quick-service burger market, which is already dotted with local franchises, recent US entrants, and established titans like McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s.
“Australia is a strategic market for long-term growth for Wendy’s,” said Abigail Pringle, president and international and chief development officer of The Wendy’s Company.
“Flynn Restaurant Group has incredible experience in the restaurant space, and we are thrilled to expand our relationship with them.”
Ron Bellamy, CEO at Flynn Restaurant Group, said the firm is the “right partner to unlock growth for Wendy’s in Australia”.
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“It is a tremendous brand with significant untapped potential outside of the US and we think it is an especially great fit for Australia, given the savvy nature of the Australian consumer,” he added.
The move has been some time coming, after a successful Sydney pop-up event in 2021, and the burger chain’s announcement of a search for its master franchisee in 2022.
Wendy’s, founded in 1969 by American restaurateur Dave Thomas, has grown to become America’s third-largest burger chain behind McDonald’s and Burger King.
Its most notable products include square burgers, with the company pledging ‘fresh, never frozen beef’ across most of its existing locations.
It briefly operated several restaurants in Australia in the 1970s, but those outlets were soon subsumed by Hungry Jack’s.
Wendy’s the latest American chain to grill the local market
Wendy’s will enter an Australian burger market already layered with domestic competitors and recent American entrants.
Grill’d, Betty’s Burgers, and Burgertory have all staked a claim on the premium, quick-service restaurant sector, offering diners more upmarket fare compared to the fast food incumbents.
Australia has also become a testing ground for US burger brands, looking to expand their reach beyond traditional North American, European, and emerging Asian markets.
Hash Tayeh, CEO of Burgertory, said Wendy’s will enter an Australian market already “saturated” with options, “indirectly diluting the burger industry”.
While Burgertory itself will face new competition from Wendy’s, Tayeh said its main competition could be the imported US chains, each vying for market share.
“If things keep going the way they are, the burger industry will end up like the pizza industry, where the bigger players lose market share to the smaller homegrown chains,” he told SmartCompany on Thursday.
“The larger chains coming in from overseas won’t be able to survive competing against each other and against local homegrown favourites.”
Local palates might prefer existing options regardless, he added.
The latest US chains to launch in Australia
American burger chain Five Guys signed an exclusive master franchise agreement with Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group in 2020, in a push to open about 20 Five Guys locations across the country.
The venture currently operates three locations, dotted across the Melbourne Southbank precinct, the Sydney CBD, and Penrith, NSW.
Burger outlet Carl’s Jr. has taken a different approach to Australian expansion compared to Five Guys, focusing on suburban and regional outposts and drive-thru services.
Since launching domestically in 2016, Carl’s Jr has notched up dozens of locations across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia.
A hotspot for Australian tourists visiting the West Coast of the United States, In-N-Out has a long history of pop-up locations dotted across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane over the last decade.
However, the brand is yet to launch a standalone location, making it something of an outlier compared to its contemporaries in the burger scene.
Some legal experts claim the brand’s pop-up strategy is a way of maintaining its intellectual property rights in Australia against similarly-named restaurants.
“Trademarks are a use-it-or-lose-it regime,” intellectual property lawyer Nicole Murdoch told the New Daily in 2021.
“They’ve elected to do pop-up stores where you can buy their burgers for a limited time to create evidence of use for their trademark.”
Founded by chef Paul Wahlberg, the Wahlburgers chain is one of the highest-profile entrants to the US burger market in the 21st century.
Backed by Wahlberg’s brother, the actor and serial investor Mark Wahlberg, the chain operates venues in most American states — and four in Australia spread across Sydney, Byron Bay, and Surfers Paradise.