The legend began with one man by the name of Dave Thompson. Dave was born in 1932 in New Jersey, but was adopted at birth by Rex and Auleva Thomas. However when Dave was only 5 years old his adoptive mother died which resulted in Dave spending a great amount of time with his grandmother while his father was traveling the country looking for work. Dave found his own work at the age of 12 working in the Regas restaurant located in Knoxville. However Dave lost this job, but not before he realized that one day he wanted to own his very own restaurant.
After his job at Regas, Dave continued to look for work, eventually finding a job at a Walgreen’s as a soda jerk. Sadly after his boss learned that he was not 16 he was let go from this job as well. None of these setback discouraged Dave and he and his father soon found themselves in Fort Wayne Indiana, where Dave worked at The Hobby House, another small restaurant. Dave’s family soon relocated but Dave decided to stay behind to continue work at the hobby house, he dropped out of high school in this process as well.
At the age of 18 Dave joined the Army , at his return he continued work at The Hobby House, and even started a new restaurant with the owner and a fellow named Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Together they entered an agreement and Dave wound up owning 4 KFC’s. At this time KFC was struggling, but the Colonel was impressed with Dave’s work at The Hobby House, so he offered Dave a business partnership if he could turn the business around. Not only did Dave turn the business around, but he also made enough money to open new restaurants. Then in the year 1968, at the age of 35, Dave sold the KFC restaurants back to the Kentucky Fried Chicken company and fulfilled his lifelong dream and opened his first restaurant, Wendy’s Old Fashion Hamburgers.
Wendy’s was named after Dave’s daughter, Melinda “Wendy” Thomas. Wendy’s immediately grabbed attention because it uses made to order burgers, along with high quality food at a very competitive price. Following the opening of the first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969, he opened another one within a year in Columbus and other branches began appearing throughout the United States. On September 23, 1975, Wendy’s inaugurated its first branch in Hamilton, Canada and then throughout the rest of the world.
In the 1980’s Wendy’s began to struggle due to stiff competition. In response the company decided to release a new line of commercials using the classic line “Wheres the beef?” The commercials became immensely popular and even found their way into american pop culture.
Today Wendy’s is the 3rd largest burger fast food chain in the world, with over 6,500 locations and 57,000 employees. They have set a new standard for fast food quality, and external store appearance. Sadly though Dave Thomas died of cancer on January 8, 2002 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the age 69 and was buried in Union Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. What is today one of the world’s most recognizable and successful fast food chains began as the dream of one simple man.