Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor could still vividly recall downing pancakes served on a platter as a kid while sitting inside the one Wendy’s location owned by his dad, who was a franchisee in Michigan. When it wasn’t pancakes at his dad’s location for breakfast, Penegor remembers eating French toast sticks at a Wendy’s nearby his alma mater Michigan State University. HIs dad sent him paper coupons, which in the 1980s (in case there are 15-year-olds reading) was the equivalent of getting free food from a digital rewards program in 2020.
“Those breakfasts were too complicated,” Penegor reminisces in an interview with Yahoo Finance while chatting inside his large corner office, nicely adorned with Wendy’s memorabilia, at company headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
I have gotten to know Penegor since he took over as CEO — after joining from Kellogg’s as CFO in 2013 — from the well-regarded Emil Brolick in May 2016. Penegor has always boasted a cool, calm and collected demeanor on the outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if that skill was honed in the 12 years Penegor spent at Ford working in the strategy and M&A departments — where a premium is placed on poker faces. But I thought our latest encounter would be slightly different this time as Penegor is about to pull the trigger on his biggest bet as Wendy’s CEO.