Wendy’s returns to East Brainerd with new and better located restaurant

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / LaTonya Moore prepares fries for an order on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. The Wendy's on Gunbarrel Road opens after months of delays.

Nearly two years after closing the Shallowford Road Wendy's restaurant near I-75 due to the traffic congestion and pandemic cutbacks, the local franchisee has opened a new $4.2 million Wendy's restaurant nearby on Gunbarrel Road.

Mohammed Abbasi, a Wendy's franchisee for the past 45 years, said the new location should be more accessible and better designed to handle the projected $3.2 million a year in sales he expects from the new restaurant.

"We looked around for quite a while to find the right spot, and we think this will be a convenient and visible location that hopefully will do very well," Abassi said Monday during a grand opening celebration of the new Wendy's at 2124 Gunbarrel Road.

Abbasi said the new 3,000-square-foot restaurant, which was built on the site of a former Payless Shoe Store on Gunbarrel Road, cost about $4.2 million to develop and will employ about 40 full- and part-time workers.

"We're still hiring," Abassi said, calling the current job market the toughest he has seen during his nearly half century in the restaurant industry.

The tight labor market earlier this year forced the Wendy's restaurant on Bonny Oaks Drive to temporarily close its dining room due to labor shortages as business grew as the pandemic eased. The restaurant is once again open for in-person seating.

The new Gunbarrel Road Wendy's also struggled with pandemic-related supply chain problems that delayed delivery of new payment processing equipment because of the shortages of computer chips. Abassi said he had hoped to open the new eatery in September but equipment delays pushed back the opening.

The new Gunbarrel restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Wendy's added a breakfast menu in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. Abassi said breakfast business has been growing at Wendy's, although the restaurant chain is still best known for its signature burgers, fish and chicken sandwiches.

Lonnie Wilson, the general manager for the newest Wendy's, said the restaurant includes state-of-the-art grills, ovens and other food preparation equipment, which are able to cook 4-ounce hamburgers in 80 seconds and 2-ounce burgers in only 40 seconds.

"All of our burgers are prepared fresh and delivered to you hot off the grill," Abassi said. "That really sets Wendy's apart from other fast-food restaurants."

The 70-year-old Abbasi and his wife, Sandy, have been operating Wendy's restaurants since 1977 and now operate 17 locations owned by Springfield Investments LLC, headquartered in Rome, Georgia. The Wendy's restaurants are scattered from Cleveland, Tennessee, to Calhoun, Georgia, and over to Rainsville, Alabama.

The Wendy's on Gunbarrel is the third new Wendy's location Abbasi has opened since he built a new unit on Bonny Oaks Drive in 2015.

But Abbasi has also closed area Wendy's locations on Rossville Boulevard, on East Brainerd Road and Shallowford Road when sales at those locations fell over time.

The new Gunbarrel Road location is less than a half mile from the former Wendy's restaurant at Shallowford and Shallowford Village Drive, which shut down during the pandemic in 2021. That restaurant was sold last year and is being renovated into a new Volcano Express drive-through restaurant.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter at @DFlessner