EL CENTRO — The new Wendy’s fast-food restaurant celebrated its grand opening Saturday, January 11, by welcoming customers with games and activities with the chance to win prizes and coupons.
The new site replaced the Wendy’s, now closed, located about 1.5 miles south on Imperial Avenue which was an icon in El Centro for many years, according to locals.
Wendy’s corporate officials helped local personnel with party music, greeting customers, and games, which included a bean bag toss, a Jenga block game, and a wheel spin in the parking area.
One corner was covered with blue tarp for a dice game. Two soft cubes measuring about 3 feet per side had photographs of a hamburger, a packet of fries, a cup of soda, or a frosty cup on each of its six sides. Those with stronger muscles tossed the dice or twirled them in the air. The younger children preferred just to push them, sometimes with the assistance of their parents.
“We wanted to give El Centro a brand-new fresh Wendy’s. We closed the old one and built this new one,” said Brian Spongberg, marketing manager and son of the franchise owner.
According to Spongberg, the new Wendy’s is their 55th franchise, one many others located in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara.
“We want to be El Centro’s community restaurant. Our goal is to be involved with schools, clubs, organizations and not just a corporate restaurant,” Spongberg said. The restaurant features free Wi-Fi connection where customers can have meals and work on their assignments.
Sometime in February of this year, Wendy’s will start opening earlier in the morning to serve breakfast, according to Spongberg.
“It makes our work easier,” said store manager Grace Zarate. The new Wendy’s has new and updated equipment and a workflow system for employees. She said there were new computers and headsets. According to Zarate, this will help provide better services to the restaurant’s fifty dining customers, its maximum dining capacity. The restaurant also offers drive-through service.
Currently, the fast-food restaurant has 18 full-time and 11 part-time employees working in three shifts — opening, mid-shift, and closing — seven days a week.
Zarate’s career path began as a crew member in the fast-food industry at Wendy’s Calexico. She advanced through the ranks as she moved to Wendy’s El Centro, where she became the general manager. When both franchise stores were closed, Zarate moved to the new and current location, retaining the title of general manager.
According to Spongberg, Dave Thomas — the founder of Wendy’s — named the fast-food chain after his daughter Wendy, who has her own Wendy’s franchise.
Wendy’s is one of six licensed franchise restaurant groups owned by WKS Restaurant Group whose headquarters is in Cypress, Calif. According to its website wksusa.com, the other franchises are El Pollo Loco, Denny’s, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Blaze Pizza, and Corner Bakery Cafe.