DUBLIN, OHIO — The Wendy’s Co. plans to tackle the plant-based trend in a different way than its fast-food competitors. Instead of serving a burger that looks and cooks like beef, Wendy’s is testing a black bean patty in several markets, said Todd A. Penegor, president and chief executive officer.
“News is important and continues to drive the quality and the premium messaging that we like when we think about one more visit, one more dollar,” Mr. Penegor said during a Nov. 6 earnings call. “So, if you think about plant-based protein alternatives, you could see some news along that way.”
Promotions and new menu items, including spicy chicken nuggets and a bacon jalapeño cheeseburger, drove North America same-restaurant sales up 4.4% in the third quarter.
Wendy’s net income for the three months ended Sept. 29 was $46,127,000, equal to 20c per share on the common stock, down 88% from $391,249,000, or $1.65 per share, in the year-ago period. The decrease in reported net income reflected the sale of ownership interest in Inspire Brands that occurred in the third quarter of the prior year. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter rose 2.5% to $109,916,000 from $107,220,000 last year.
Revenues totaled $437,880,000, up 9% from $400,550,000.
Looking ahead, Wendy’s executives see three keys to driving continued momentum. A national breakfast roll-out, enhanced digital capabilities and international expansion are central to the restaurant company’s growth plans.
Of breakfast, Mr. Penegor said, “We believe that we can grow this daypart to at least 10% of our U.S. sales based on strong customer demand and on the strong program that we plan to execute.”
He added that digital sales could contribute 10% of total U.S. sales by 2024 compared to the approximately 2% currently. Additionally, Wendy’s could grow to 1,500 restaurants internationally and double sales to approximately $2 billion by 2024, he said.
“We are excited about the growth plans that we have as we are investing in accelerated growth and playing a different game to achieve our goals,” Mr. Penegor said.