ATLANTA – A joint venture agreement to develop and operate Wendy’s restaurants in Japan has been signed by Wendy’s/Arby’s International Inc., a subsidiary of Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., and Higa Industries Co. Ltd., a Tokyo-based food importer and distributor. Along with plans to open the first Wendy’s restaurant in Tokyo later this year, there are also plans to rapidly expand the brand throughout the country in the future.

This is not Wendy’s first time in Japan. In December 2009, Wendy’s did not renew its franchise agreement with its former franchisee for Japan, which resulted in its closing all 71 restaurants in that country. However, this agreement does mark Wendy’s/Arby’s International’s first joint venture.

Ernest Higa, who successfully owned and operated 180 Domino’s Pizza stores in Japan before selling this business in February 2010, now leads Higa Industries. Higa’s stores were known for gourmet pizza products and using the internet and wireless technology to promote menu items and improve customers’ ordering experiences.

“We are pleased to join with Ernie Higa and Higa Industries to build the Wendy’s brand in Japan,” said Roland Smith, Wendy’s/Arby’s Group president and CEO. “Japan is the second-largest quick-service restaurant market in the world and represents a significant growth opportunity for the Wendy’s brand. We’re also honored by the tremendous outpouring of support we’ve received over the past year from our customers in Japan urging us to return.”

There are plans to reintroduce signature Wendy’s products, such as made-to-order hamburgers with square beef patties and chili, Higa said. But they will also add new products such as premium sandwiches and hamburgers with gourmet toppings served in a contemporary atmosphere that should exceed Japanese consumers’ expectations, he added.