Wendy's in Warrenton

General Manager Janai Hullette-Gromoll cut the ribbon for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday for the new Wendy’s in Warrenton, which opened today.

WARRENTON — Wendy’s opened to the public this morning.

Restaurant employees and local dignitaries from the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce cut the ribbon Tuesday on the region’s newest fast-food chain.

The franchise along Ensign Lane in the Warrenton Highlands retail center is Steve Harris’ 26th.

The building is the eighth of Wendy’s Smart 2.0 restaurants, designed for a smaller footprint at 2,400 square feet compared to 3,400 square feet for a usual location, Harris said.

“That’s kind of the push behind it,” he said. “We have a single production line here. So we’re going to be funneling more of the traffic through one line. It saves us about 50 hours a week in labor. And it’s about $50,000 cheaper to build.”

Wendy’s has more than 6,500 locations globally. The Warrenton location is the second on the Oregon Coast after Coos Bay.

Harris’ company runs 25 other restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. He was attracted to Warrenton by the year-round local population and central location in a large shopping center, he said.

The Warrenton location has so far added 41 employees, Harris said, 38 workers and three managers. Leading them is Janai Hullette-Gromoll, the general manager, who moved from Vancouver, Washington, to run the store.

“Hiring’s been interesting,” she said.

The region has one of its lowest unemployment rates in decades, raising the question of whether Wendy’s could find workers for the lower-wage positions. Hullette-Gromoll said the company used social media and online ads to attract workers.

“After we hired the first round, it was word of mouth,” she said.

Wendy’s will open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. inside and until midnight in the drive-thru, where Harris has predicted about two-thirds of the customers will go.

The location has also caused concern over increased traffic at Ensign Lane and U.S. Highway 101, the busiest intersection in the county. The restaurant is putting up signs to discourage people from blocking the entrance and exit out of Warrenton Highlands, and employees will help direct traffic, Harris said.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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