The Real Reason Wendy's Doesn't Have Locations In The EU

Europeans may be snooty when American fast food restaurants are involved, but it hasn't stopped some of our biggest fast food chains from crossing the Atlantic pond and taking flight in markets abroad. This would explain why familiar names like Subway, McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut have made it to the ranks of the top 500 European franchises (via Franchise Europe). 

But amid the Starbucks, Domino's, and Dunkin' restaurants, there is one neon sign that is noteworthy simply because it isn't on the landscape. Wendy's conspicuous absence deprives potentially homesick Americans of the pleasure of enjoying their Frostys and Baconators when they are far and away from home.

If you're in the Netherlands and are a doubting Thomas, you might choose to disprove the absence of a Wendy's by going online. You might discover that there is a Wendy's Fish & Chips on Koningstraat 5 in the city of Goes, nearly 114 miles outside of Amsterdam. But you'd do well to kill the craving and look elsewhere for your burger – unless you were looking to explore the Dutch countryside, that is. 

Wendy's Fish & Chips owns the rights to the Wendy's name in Europe

Wendy's absence from the European market has to do with a business decision it made in the 1980s when it opened and then shut stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, known then as the Benelux region. Two years later, a businessman named Raymond Warrens decided to open a shop that he would name after his daughter and registered the name "Wendy's" in 1995. He got the trademark, and the rest is food history (via Gourmandize).

Suffice it to say that the food giant isn't going down without a fight and since 2000, it has tried to sue Dutch Wendy's. But the Netherlands' courts aren't giving an inch. While Warrens originally only had the right to use the name Wendy's within the Benelux region, with the formation of the European Union, that right has been extended to cover all of the EU's member states. Thrillist says Warrens now refuses to settle and continues to fight out of principle. This stand has made Wendy's Fish & Chips one of the most popular mom-and-pop outlets in a city full of mom-and-pop shops since people have left both praise and complaints as a result of the name battle.

But the chain isn't giving up just yet. 

Brexit gave Wendy's an opening

With Brexit a reality (via the BBC), Wendy's has been able to stage something of a comeback in that part of the world by setting up its first shop in England. The store, which opened in June of 2021, is located in Reading, which is situated approximately 40 miles west of London and is seen as a transportation hub in that part of the country. The Columbus Dispatch, which reported on the opening, says the store is just the first of up to five that have been planned for 2021. The intended locations include Stratford, Birmingham, East London, and Oxford. A further 10 stores are planned for 2022, and the hope is to work with franchisees to open more as the opportunities arise. Wendy's spokesperson Heidi Schauer told the publication that there were great hopes for the chain's success, because "We know U.K. customers are really excited for us to come (thanks to) extensive research."  

Wendy's British fans will be treated to the chain's greatest hits, including the Baconator and its Spicy Chicken Sandwich. The Dispatch says there will also be local items on offer though, including several vegetarian items like a Veggie Stack meat-free burger, "veggie bites" and an avocado veggie salad. And because the U.K. isn't technically in the European Union anymore, the store is strategically important to Wendy's, because it can potentially use the U.K. as a jumping-off point into the continent when the time is right. 

Finding a new expansion model

Wendy's may end up doing things a bit differently when it tries to break into the European market the next time around. Other than operating more than 6,800 restaurants across seven regions including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, the brand is also actively building up its capacity within ghost kitchens (Wendy's calls the facility a "dark kitchen") space, which will allow them to reach fans in cities where rents are high and space is at a premium (via Square Deal). 

It has already partnered with several dark kitchen brands around the world – including REEF's Neighborhood Kitchens in Toronto, Canada as well as Rebel Foods in India – which will result in the opening of hundreds of dark kitchen facilities in total, within both markets. So while Wendy's might have lost the Battle for (continental) Europe to Wendy's Fish & Chips, it could still win its war with a little help from a new kind of ally.