US fast food chain Wendy’s is on track to begin opening restaurants in the UK in the first half of 2021.

The company plans to build about five corporate-owned restaurants in the UK in 2021, and add another 10 or so in 2022, with an ultimate goal of 20 overall its directors said in a conference call.

The company said it has built a “top talent team” on the ground, in is recruiting franchisees to build the estate alongside corporate stores.

Wendy’s will use its entry into the UK as a “beachhead” for further expansion in Europe.

The chain will open two branches in the next five months, one in Reading and a second in Oxford, while locations in London are also being explored.

Wendy’s previously had a presence in the UK, but closed its branches 21 years ago.

With 6,700 restaurants across 30 countries, it is the third largest chain in the world, after McDonald’s and Burger King.

Wedny’s CEO Todd Allan Penegor said: “We continue to make great progress towards our plan to expand into Europe and remain on track to begin opening restaurants in the U.K. in the first half of 2021. We have built a top talent team on the ground, have multiple locations secured and are engaging with several potential franchise candidates to build out this market alongside us.

“International expansion remains critical to growing our Wendy’s footprint, and we believe that we have the plans and the partners in place to make this happen.

“We’ll get about 5 company restaurants open in the U.K. in 2021. We’re actively recruiting franchisees to build out that market along with us. We’ll continue to build company units into 2022 and supplement that with the franchisees that we’re recruiting to grow that market out. And that’s a couple of year journey to really start to solidify a good beachhead in the U.K. to really prove out the model for the broader European business.”

Wendy’s CFO Gunther Plosch added: “At the end of the day, we want to get to about 20 company restaurants in the U.K. It’s a hybrid model. We are recruiting at the moment very actively to make sure that we’re having a lot of franchisee help to build out the U.K. market as a beachhead for Europe.”