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For the most part, you can find pretty much all of your favorite fast-food joints when traveling around the world, especially in Europe. Burger King? Sure thing. Subway? You got it. McDonald’s? Duh. But there’s one notable big name missing: Wendy’s.
Wendy’s is one of the biggest fast-food restaurants in America, so it seems surprising that it hasn’t managed to successfully cross the pond (with the exception of Georgia, which is geographically part of Asia and isn’t in the European Union). Stranger still, Wendy’s actually did used to be in Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, starting with Munich, Germany, in 1978.
So what’s with the disappearing act?
Let’s start with the most interesting factor: a David-and-Goliath legal battle against a small Dutch snack bar. In the 1980s, Wendy’s had locations across the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, but they all closed their doors by 1986. Two years later, an independent snack bar in the Dutch city of Goes opened its doors and went by the name of—wanna take a guess?—Wendy’s.
Dutch Wendy’s got a trademark of the name in the 1990s, so when American Wendy’s tried re-registering for its own trademark in 1995, the issue turned into a legal back-and-forth. The Eastern European regional courts kept siding with Dutch Wendy’s, and the American fast-food chain has apparently been appealing as recently as 2017 with no success. For once, the little guy seems to have won. This is why Wendy’s is almost the only fast-food chain selling baked potatoes.
But that legal case only explains why Wendy’s hasn’t opened doors in the Benelux region (the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg), not the whole of Europe. U.S. Wendy’s did lock down other E.U. trademarks, but other countries seem to have proven their own difficulties.
The burger joint opened in Russia in 2011, but it shut down all eight locations three years later, blaming issues with the franchise owner. The chain also pulled out of Great Britain in 2000 because of high operation and property costs, but it might have set its sights back on the U.K. market—in 2017, it hosted a one-day pop-up shop slinging burgers and Frosties. Check out these other cool facts you never knew about the Wendy’s Frosty.
“Over the last four decades, our brand has entered a number of different international markets, and in some cases, we later exited the area due to a variety of business reasons,” says Wendy’s Director of Corporate Communications Heidi Schauer. “We will continue to consider Europe, along with many other international markets, as we continue to expand the brand globally.”
Could this mean Wendy’s is making moves back to Europe? Only time will tell. Next, check out these 33 things fast-food workers won’t tell you.