When word of Pizza Hut’s return to Argentina surfaced in October, the announcement was well received, yet another reminder of a U.S.-based restaurant giant that once made a significant investment in the country only to abandon the venture years later when times got tough.
Ohio-based Wendy’s made a similar move in the 1990’s buying 11 BA restaurants for $13.2 million and growing the chain to 18 company-owned restaurants before pulling out of Argentina altogether in 2000. “The economic and competitive conditions we faced in Argentina were just too difficult to overcome,” said then-CEO Jack Schuessler who would resign six years later.
Now it seems, Wendy is getting her Latin groove back, and Atlanta-based Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. (NYSE: WEN) is placing “continued focus on our existing markets and franchisees as well as seeking prospective franchisees in a limited number of selected new markets.” South American markets where Wendy’s/Arby’s International is “actively seeking qualified prospective franchisees” include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Ironically, the company currently operates over three dozen restaurants in Venezuela, arguably the least transparent environment in Latin America.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if the anecdotes shared this week on d:biz were any indication, Argentines are ready for the cute redhead with pigtails to wander back into their lives. Alejandro recalls “the quality of the square (cuadrada) hamburgers,” Juan Pablo remembers the “fancy ketchup dispensers,” Dario misses the “hot chili” and Maria Luisa says her friend’s first job was working at Wendy’s where she blew up balloons for kids. Today, that friend runs her own party planning company and balloons are a tool of the trade. So good news, Wendy. You walked out once, but maybe the timing wasn’t right. Bottom line: We miss you, and we’re ready for a long-term relationship.
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