Wendy’s is targeting 45 UK restaurants by the end of 2023 – including delivery-only kitchen locations, president and chief executive Todd Penegor has said.

Speaking on an investor call following its fourth quarter and full year results to 1 January 2023 yesterday (1 March), Penegor said the business remained focused on delivery accelerated global growth and intended to “lean in on our strong start” in the UK and Europe, by continuing to grow the UK market alongside traditional franchisees, entering Ireland and Spain with experienced master franchisees beginning in 2024.

He added that the burger brand was achieving a lot of momentum in same restaurant sales internationally. “There are a couple of areas where we have made some bets. Clearly going with company restaurants into the UK – we had at the end of 2022, 12 company restaurants, 29 in total which included 16 Reef and one traditional franchise.

“We do think by the end of 2023 we will be 45 restaurants strong across that portfolio, that will give us that home base to continue to drive growth into Spain and into Ireland.”

Wendy’s said it expects around 70% of its net store growth in 2023 to come from international sites, with 30% from the US market.

The business achieved systemwide sales growth of 7.2% in the US in the fourth quarter, up from (0.7%) in 2021, and +5.3% up for the full year, down from 8.6% in 2021.

In its international markets, it recorded systemwide sales growth of 16.8% in Q4 – up from 13.5% in 2021, and +19.2% in full year, slightly down from 20.7% in 2021.

Like-for-like sales in its international markets were up 9.9% for the quarter and 12.4% for the year, while in the US they were up 5.9% in Q4 and 3.9% for the full year.

US sales for the full year were $11.7bn, up from $11.1bn, and $1.6bn internationally compared to $1.4bn in 2021.

Wendy’s opened 87 new international restaurants in 2022, 64 net.

“Our strong 2022 results and the progress we made against our strategic growth pillars have laid the foundation for continued growth for years to come,” Penegor said.

“In the fourth quarter, our breakfast sales accelerated while our global digital business reached record highs, and over the course of the year we opened over 275 restaurants across the globe despite a difficult operating environment.

We anticipate our significant business momentum and the sound execution of our key priorities will deliver a new gear of efficient, accelerated growth for the next several years.”

The company said it expects global systemwide sales growth of six to eight percent in 2023.