Wendy’s in Marquette rebounds after tough start to the pandemic

Fast food chains are seeing an increase in business during the pandemic.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Fast food chains are seeing an increase in business during the pandemic. Drive thru has not only saved many locally owned fast food chains, but now has them thriving.

“The first few months of the pandemic, February, March, April we were down 50 percent in sales and lost half our staff and it was getting scary,” said Richard Merrill, the owner of Wendy’s in Marquette. “Then all of a sudden, next thing you know, we have a line to the highway every day.”

Richard Merrill has owned the Wendy’s in Marquette for nearly four decades and has never experienced a year like this.

After finishing several hundred thousand dollars of upgrades to his dining room a couple years ago, it now sits empty and has been for over a year.

Despite being allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity, there are no plans to reopen it yet.

“I think we are getting closer to opening the dining room, but we still don’t feel it’s the right time,” said Merrill. “Maybe when it is 75 to 100 percent. Maybe when cases go down the other way.”

For now, the location has seen significant success from its drive thru.

“Before the pandemic we were two-thirds drive thru and one-third dining room,” said Merrill. “The trend was going towards drive thru and takeout before the pandemic.”

Now, challenges remain. Wendy’s is still struggling to hire new people.

“We have very good people,” said Merrill. “We could use more very good people, but everybody’s hiring. It’s a big challenge.”

While he’s seen success, Merrill says he does feel for other restaurants in the area who have been impacted harder by coronavirus restrictions.

“I feel really bad for the sit-down places,” said Merrill. “We’ve had challenges, but they’ve had major challenges.”

That is the reason many other local owners of fast-food chains did not want to talk to us on camera. Multiple chain owners told TV6, their sales are up, but they feel bad for other restaurants.

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