Wendy’s Todd Penegor does what his predecessors could not: Breakfast

The Restaurant Leader of the Year nominee took on the morning daypart, long a company frustration, and succeeded despite the pandemic.


By Jonathan Maze, Restaurant Business

Apr. 27, 2021


Mike Zak started working with Wendy’s in 1985, just as the burger chain was in the middle of its first attempt to add breakfast. A few months later, Wendy’s discontinued that effort and closed hundreds of stores, and Zak told his wife he might have to find another job.


So Zak, who is now a franchisee, was rightly skeptical when the company told him in 2018 that it was going to try breakfast again, for the fourth time.


“Not this again,” Zak said, when asked what he thought at the time. “Whenever we have a change in senior leadership, the playbook eventually gets to ‘Let’s try breakfast again.’ I thought we were going to avoid it with Todd, but it just took him awhile.”


He’s speaking of Todd Penegor, Wendy’s CEO, who took a big risk by making yet another run at the morning daypart that had dogged so many of his predecessors. To make matters worse, a global pandemic led to widespread closures of restaurants in the U.S. just one week after the introduction.


Yet the launch worked. By the end of 2020, breakfast represented...