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Wendy's Eyes Japanese Expansion With 'First Kitchen' Concept

The fast food company is getting in the pasta business

Flickr/Paul Robinson

Wendy's is known for square hamburger patties and spicy chicken sandwiches, but in Japan, it's planning to at pasta to its repertoire. The chain's Japanese franchising company on Wednesday announced the purchase of First Kitchen, which will be rebranded as Wendy's First Kitchen. The First Kitchen chain already operates 136 restaurants in Japan, and Wendy's plans to expand its new brand within the country.

Announcing the deal, Wendy's executive vice president Bob Wright said it's part of the company's plans for global growth in four key markets: Japan, India, Brazil, and the Middle East. In Japan, Wendy's First Kitchen will serve a menu of popular dishes from both chains. First Kitchen is known in the country for its selection of pasta.

"We believe our best approach is to support our franchisees in building Wendy's brand strength in local markets and enhancing the economic model of their restaurants," Wright said in a prepared statement.

Two Wendy's First Kitchen locations have been given a trial run in Tokyo since 2015, and the company says they "have performed well." Right now, it appears Wendy's has no plans to expand its new concept internationally. Reached by email, a spokesperson said "plans call for growth and expansion in Japan," nothing further.

Why does Wendy's see Japan as a "key market" for its international operations. It could be related to the struggles of a chief rival in the country. In 2015, McDonald's Japan lost more than $300 million, the chain's worst loss since going public 15 years ago.