Name: Tatiana Lambert
New title: Vice president, U.S. chief development officer, Wendy’s
Previous title: Interim head of development/director of development strategy and transformation, Pizza Hut U.S.
Wendy’s has hired Yum Brands executive Tatiana Lambert to head its American development initiatives, the company confirmed in an email to Restaurant Dive. Lambert was hired last week and “will focus on creating and executing new development strategies that drive footprint expansion across the U.S. for both franchisees and the company,” a Wendy’s spokesperson said.
As chief development officer, Lambert’s portfolio includes site selection and approval, real estate leasing and purchasing, the development of new franchising initiatives, market research, and building partnerships with brokers. Lambert will report to Abigail Pringle, the company’s president, international and chief development officer.
Problems with Wendy’s Reef Kitchens partnership, which culminated in the closure of the company’s remaining Reef units in the late spring, derailed the company’s 2021 and 2022 growth projections. In 2021, the company forecast it would reach “8,500 to 9,000” restaurants by 2025. At the close of 2022, Wendy’s had 7,095 restaurants, according to its 2022 10-K. On Wendy’s Q3 2023 earnings call, CEO Todd Penegor said the company anticipated 2% unit growth in 2023, 2-3% in 2024 and 3-4% in 2025, which gives a rough maximal projection of about 7,750 restaurants at the end of 2025, 750 short of its projections with Reef.
Over the last year, possibly to compensate for those changed projections, Wendy’s introduced a new franchising development program, called “Pacesetter,” that waived a number of fees and offered reduced royalty rates. It is also offering franchisees the chance to pilot a drive-thru AI tool that may shave time off at the drive-thru. In recent quarters, the brand’s sales have been buoyed by late-night traffic and gradual growth in the breakfast segment.
In the summer of 2022, shortly after the first cut to its projected ghost kitchen openings, Wendy’s unveiled a prototype for its next generation of restaurants. Last year, the first of those units opened and the chain unveiled a tweaked prototype with a high-capacity kitchen for high-traffic areas. Lambert, as development chief, will bear responsibility for building out the company’s system and increasing the number of next generation Wendy’s units.