- Wendy’s has named Deepak Ajmani as its new chief operating officer, a promotion from his previous role as senior vice president of company restaurant operations. Restaurant Business reports this was separate from the operations position that oversaw franchised restaurants.
- By combining the franchise and company operations departments, the company hopes to create better and more consistent experiences across its entire footprint, CEO Todd Penegor said during Wendy's Q3 earnings call Wednesday.
- This announcement comes less than a month after Wendy's named Kevin Vasconi as its new chief information officer. Vasconi, who came from Domino's, is tasked with growing Wendy's technology channels. In a press release, Penegor said, "Digital technology is a critical growth driver for Wendy's today and will be in the future."
Growing its digital business is one of Wendy's "key growth pillars" and the company has made some significant progress toward that goal during the COVID-19 pandemic. During September, digital sales generated over 6% of the business, more than double the amount from 2019.
But with an increasing influx of digital sales — and thus more orders coming through the drive-thru window, to the delivery driver or to the curbside car — comes a necessary shift in operations. Otherwise, as those off-premise channels grow and more throughput is required, speed of service could be compromised.
Prioritizing the COO role, and making it consistent across the entire system is a savvy move, particularly as customers are expected to continue using takeout and delivery. According to the National Restaurant Association, 32% of adults who ordered takeout or delivery said they expect to increase their frequency during the next three months, while just 22% plan to cut their off-premise frequency for lunch or dinner.
Ajmani seems to have a good base from which to start. During the company’s earnings call, Penegor said customers "are noticing these operational improvements," including speed and order accuracy. Improvement in customer satisfaction has helped drive restaurant margins up 70 basis points from the prior year.
"We believe that we have found operating model efficiencies, which should result in strong restaurant margins on a go-forward basis," he said.
Wendy's is also planning some big changes that will require additional operational updates. For starters, the company plans to press the gas on its breakfast promotions as commuters return to the roads. Already mixing around 7%, this promotional bump could require staffing changes in the morning, for example.
Also, with Vasconi in place as CIO, the chain is pushing its mobile ordering, grab-and-go and curbside delivery channels, which will also shift labor lines throughout the day. Finally, Penegor said the company is looking at a variety of real estate footprints that will require disparate operational models based on their on-premise versus off-premise mix.
"We've been well ahead of the curve on different sizes. We have traditional freestanding restaurants at 65-plus seats all the way down to Smart 2.0 designs with 30 seats," he said during the call. "We also have a new appetite to look at drive-thru only restaurant and we've got some prototypes that are going out in place to continue to test and learn on that front. And I think it is important to have their portfolio of restaurants of different sizes to really make sure we’ve got solutions for any trade area."
Penegor added that the company will "continue to up our game operationally" to create more consistent experiences, to drive speed of service and make its digital initiatives more frictionless.