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Wendy's CEO vows to improve results after 'self-inflicted' slump

Wendy's new CEO on Monday called the dour results of the past few years "self-inflicted wounds" and vowed to do better, laying out plans that included hiring top-tier workers and reclaiming market share from higher-end competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger.

Emil Brolick, the CEO since September, told investors Monday that he was intent on winning back customers, jaded by a stale menu and inconsistent service, as well as investors, who have grown weary of "a little bit of overpromising and underdelivering."

And rather than blaming the struggling economy for the revenue declines and quarterly losses of the past few years, Brolick said that the company's problems were its own fault. Though Wendy's Co. had carved out a niche as fast food for grownups, it had lost its way in recent years.

"These are not DNA issues," said Brolick, who also worked at Wendy's during more halcyon days of the late '80s and early '90s. "These are issues we caused, and any time you have self-inflicted wounds, you can correct self-inflicted wounds."

Brolick said he was intent on taking back lost market share from the likes of fast-casual competitors like Panera, by offering food that was just as good but at a lower price. The company has revamped its menu and is remodeling stores. It sold Arby's, which had been a drag on earnings, over the summer. And it's now intent on hiring "five star" employees in line with those at the fast-casual chains, Brolick said.

"Those folks at the bottom corner, there's a job waiting for them at our competitors," said Brolick, who has also hired a new general counsel at the Ohio headquarters and is adding a chief marketing officer and chief people officer.

Brolick, who was most recently a top executive at Yum Brands Inc., said he's bringing all Wendy's locations up to consistent standards, rather than the current, unpredictable state of "one there is really, really good but this one over here isn't quite what it needs to be."

Revenue rose 5.6 percent to $615 million, narrowly beating the $613 million predicted by analysts. The chain credited more customers visiting and spending more when they did, including on the revamped Dave's Hot 'N Juicy cheeseburger. Higher prices also helped.

Revenue at restaurants open at least a year climbed 4.4 percent in North America, the highest number in nearly 8 years, according to the company.

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