WALKING into the UK's first Wendy's I wasn't sure what to expect.
I'd only seen the American restaurant chain in films or on TV – and I'd always wondered what made it so special.
As soon as I walked inside the new Reading branch the tantalising smell of burgers being grilled hit me.
The Sun was given a sneak peak inside the branch before it opens it doors today.
We were lucky to sample some of its new menu, featuring old favourites and some new surprises exclusive to the UK.
It's not the first time that Wendy's has tried to break the UK. The last branch closed its doors back in 2001.
The chain was founded in 1969 by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio.
The company has more than 6,800 restaurants across the world, employing hundreds of thousands of workers.
What’s on the Wendy’s menu?
WENDY’S new menu is a mix of US fast food favourites and exclusive UK meals – including more veggie and healthy options…
A quarter-pound British beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mayo, and onion on a toasted bun — this is Wendy’s signature burger named after founder Dave Thomas.
Avocado Chicken Salad
This healthier-option includes lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, avocado, Applewood smoked bacon, and grilled chicken breast, topped with Southwest Ranch Dressing.
Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Chicken breast marinated and breaded in a blend of peppers and spices, served with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
4 or 8 all-veggie bites made with veg & grains and served with a choice of dipping sauces.
The Veggie Stack
This meat-free burger is a blend of vegetables, grains and spices, topped with Emmental cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and garlic mayonnaise in a toasted bun.
Avocado Veggie Salad
A veggie version of the chicken salad, made up of lettuce, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, avocado, with Veggie Bites, all topped with Southwest Ranch Dressing.
Real Breast Fillet Chicken Nuggets
Pieces of whole breast chicken fillet lightly breaded and fried, served with a sauce of your choice.
After finding a seat, I sampled the classic Dave’s Single cheeseburger, with a side of fries and chicken nuggets and a vanilla Frosty – which is a cross between a dessert and a drink.
All in the name of research, of course.
The burger patty was thick and juicy, with a generous helping of cheese, and I could tell the chicken nuggets were made with 100% chicken breast because they were tender with an unprocessed texture.
I’m told the classic Wendy’s combo is a salty chip dipped in a sweet Frosty – which actually tastes a lot better than it sounds!
Other menu items on offer included the Spicy Chicken sandwich and the Baconator.
There’s something on the menu for vegetarians too, including the Veggie Stack, Veggie Bites and Veggie avocado salad, which are available exclusively in the UK.
Early risers can get their hands on Wendy’s breakfast, which is available before 10:30am.
Breakfast items include the Breakfast Baconator, croissant sandwiches, egg and cheese sandwich with bacon or sausage and a range of coffee options such as flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes.
In line with government regulations, customers will have to wear a mask while ordering or moving around the restaurant, as well as respecting social distancing rules.
But you can remove your face covering when you sit down to tuck into your meal.
There is also a one-way system in the restaurant, signposted by floor stickers, to help with social distancing.
Customers can either order at the counter or a kiosk before waiting for the order number on their receipt to be called out.
You can keep track of when your food is being prepared and when it is ready by keeping an eye on the screen in the collection area.
Once you’ve picked up your meal, Wendy’s has a light and airy seating area complete with coronavirus safety screens for you to enjoy your food – or you can ask for it to go.
At its Reading branch, Wendy’s has installed self-service drinks machines with the option of contact-free ordering using your phone.
You can do this by scanning the QR code on the machine with your phone’s camera, which will bring up the ordering webpage.
Then just select your soft drink of choice.I went for a Diet Coke. You then hold your cup under the dispenser and hit the button on your phone to pour your drink.
If you’ve got used to ordering in during lockdown, Wendy’s has partnered with Uber Eats to offer at-home delivery within the store’s catchment area.
Just download the Uber Eats app on your smartphone to see if you can get Wendy’s delivered straight to your door.
Alternatively, you can place your order online ahead of time and pop into the restaurant to collect your food.
UK burger fans that aren’t lucky enough to live near the chain’s Reading branch shouldn’t have too long to wait to sample a Wendy’s meal.
The company has announced its next UK restaurants will open in Stratford, East London and Oxford this year.
Eventually it wants to take the fast food crown away from established competitors Burger King and McDonald’s – so expect more stores to open over the next few years.
But is it better than its rivals? I'd say so. It reminded me more of posh chain Five Guys – but cheaper.
This week, McDonald's customers can get £5 off when they spend £15 using its app.
And a worker revealed how staff can get the fast food giant's meals for free using a points system.
In other fast food news, an ex-Greggs employee spilled the beans on how to get a refund if your food is cold.
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