Wendy’s opened its first joint-venture restaurant in Japan on Monday, in the Omotesando area of Tokyo.
Wendy’s Japan LLC, the joint venture formed between The Wendy’s Co. and master franchisee Higa Industries Co. Ltd., plans to open 100 restaurants in Japan within the next five years, and 700 over the long term. Wendy’s and Higa Industries announced the partnership in March.
The new restaurant marks a return to Japan for the Wendy’s brand after its abrupt exit at the end of 2009, when Wendy’s did not renew a previous franchise agreement and closed 71 restaurants.
Higa Industries, led by Ernest Higa, owned and operated 180 Domino’s Pizza franchised restaurants before selling that business in February 2010.
“We are delighted to join with a highly capable partner, Ernie Higa, to bring the Wendy’s brand to Japan and rapidly grow our presence in one of the largest quick-service restaurant markets in the world,” Darrell van Ligten, president of Wendy’s international division, said in a statement. “The opening of our first joint-venture restaurant in Japan is an important step in our international growth plans and an expression of our confidence in the bright future of Japan.”
When it still operated as the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, prior to the sale of former sister brand Arby’s Restaurant Group in July, the company set an international system development goal of 8,000 new restaurants over the long term, from a base of about 340 locations. Wendy’s said Japan represented about 9 percent of those 8,000 potential restaurants, while China and Brazil together accounted for about 30 percent of the potential international units.
“We are reintroducing to Japan signature Wendy’s products, including made-to-order, premium hamburgers with square beef patties, chicken sandwiches, entrée salads, chili and popular Frosty desserts,” Higa said. “At the same time, we’ll further differentiate our restaurants by adding innovative new menu options created exclusively for the Japanese market, including the Avocado Wasabi hamburger and the Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken sandwich. Our food will be served in a contemporary, inviting atmosphere that we believe will exceed the discerning expectations of Japanese consumers.”
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of Sendai, Japan, on March 11 resulted in more than 12,000 deaths, electricity loss for nearly 2 million people and rolling blackouts for months in the country, but a Wendy’s spokesman said at the time of the earthquake and accompanying tsunami that the development schedule would not be affected.
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Wendy’s also this year struck development deals with its franchisees in Russia and the Philippines.
The Dublin, Ohio-based company operates or franchises more than 6,500 restaurants in the United States and 26 foreign markets.
— Mark Brandau