Culture Clash: Russians Sex Up Wendy of Wendy's Restaurants

The Moscow Times reports on a brewing diplomatic challenge:

The Wendy’s models in trademark pigtails who greeted reporters outside the U.S. hamburger chain’s first standalone Russian restaurant on Thursday didn’t resemble your traditional Wendy girls.

Instead of the wholesome freckle-faced redhead in old-fashioned pantaloons, these long-legged women wore short dresses, bright red-striped stockings and stilettos.

Meet the Russian Wendy.

Photographers clustered around the women to take photos, but a visiting U.S. executive, Andrew Skehan, was decidedly less impressed.

Skehan, the chain’s chief operating officer, said by phone that he had not been aware of franchisee Wenrus Restaurant Group’s decision to sex up the chain’s icon. He said he would probably have to deal with a flood of phone calls from Wendy’s/Arby’s headquarters in Atlanta once his associates saw the photos.

Wendy was, after all, the daughter of the chain’s late founder and chief executive, Dave Thomas.

But speaking to reporters at the opening, Skehan allowed that the Russians were the most beautiful Wendy’s girls he had ever seen.

The girls are a far cry from the Soviet stereotypes that Wendy’s lampooned in an award-winning commercial in the 1980s. The commercial poked fun at the lack of choice in the Soviet Union and the stereotypically large Soviet woman, showing a heavyset woman catwalking in a shapeless dress and swinging a flashlight for nightwear and a ball for beachwear.

“Wendy’s produced this parody, but today we have the Russian Wendy,” Skehan said in the phone interview, adding that he still laughs every time he sees the commercial.

The franchisee’s chief executive, Alexander Kovaler, explained that he had changed the outfit to appeal to a younger demographic. “It’s our upgrade,” he said by phone.

.