Wendy's cooks up big push into India with 'cloud kitchens' ... and no beef

Jim Weiker
ThisWeek group
Wendy's plans a major push into India with "cloud kitchens" and conventional restaurants, such as this one, photographed before the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Wendy's is planning a big push into India over the next decade, though fans of the restaurant might ask: Where's the beef?

The fast-food chain will not serve its famous square hamburgers or even its beef chili in the country known for avoiding beef.

Instead, the Wendy's India menu will include chicken chili, masala chai, rice bowls, vegetable patties called "railway cutlets" and the "bun tikki," a potato cutlet in a hamburger bun.

The menu isn't the only thing different in the Wendy's India venture.

The Dublin-based chain announced that it is partnering with Rebel Foods and Sierra Nevada Restaurants, both based in India, to open 400 Wendy's kitchens over the next decade.

The majority of those kitchens, 250, will be "cloud kitchens" that prepare the Wendy's menu for delivery. 

"This is a game-changing partnership," said Kallol Banerjee, cofounder of Rebel, which bills itself as the world's largest web-based restaurant operator. "For generations, brands building a national presence relied solely on a brick-and-mortar strategy and made significant investments over decades. By partnering with the Rebel Foods network of existing kitchens in India, Wendy’s will get immediate access to rapid scale across the country, at far lower levels of capital."

The plan represents one of the most ambitious restaurant moves into cloud kitchens, which have increased in popularity during a COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has kept customers out of sit-down restaurants.

The Wendy's announcement also represents a significant push to expand its overseas presence, which the chain has identified as one of its three growth strategies (along with breakfast and digital sales). 

Wendy's now operates four brick-and-mortar restaurants and five cloud kitchens in the Delhi metropolitan area through its partnership with Sierra Nevada.

The 400 new kitchens in India would be a major boost to the 940 overseas restaurants Wendy's now operates.

"This reflects Wendy's' commitment to growing our international business in strategic high-growth potential markets," Abigail Pringle, Wendy's president, international and chief development officer, said in a news release. "We look forward to expanding our presence in India and continuing to grow the Wendy’s footprint around the world."

jweiker@dispatch.com

@JimWeiker