Nearly everyone likes Wendys. For those who like square patties, their “Fresh, Never Frozen” philosophy is well-known in America.
Wendy’s serves more than hamburgers. If you’ve eaten there or driven through. The decor and menu are cozy. Wendy’s probably smells like your grandma’s kitchen and a hamburger stand. A place where the ingredients are crisp and the Frosty is royal—a milkshake so thick it’s served with a spoon.
Wendys made-to-order food and family-friendly atmosphere have delighted customers for 50 years. When did customers first smell Wendy’s? Where did Frosty originate? The backstory begins in Ohio.
Wendys Began In Columbus, Ohio
Dave Thomas franchised an old-fashioned hamburger joint on November 15, 1969. Thomas’ first Wendys opened on Broad Street in downtown Columbus, Ohio. But it wasn’t his last.
Wendys stood out from the start. The original and subsequent franchises looked like family dens. If you ordered in. You could eat in a carpeted dining room lit by ceiling-mounted stained-glass lamps. Thomas opened a second Wendy’s in Columbus after the cozy atmosphere paid off. These two operations helped Wendys Coupons explode. One of America’s largest fast-food chains started in Ohio’s capital.
Wendy Came From A Mispronunciation Of Melinda
Dave Thomas had five children, none named Wendy. His daughter Melinda Lou inspired Wendys name and image. Wenda, her childhood nickname, manifests indirectly.
“Wenda’s” siblings had trouble pronouncing her name. So Thomas tweaked it for Wendys. Which stuck. Melinda Lou is the logo and name. Wendy’s first and only emblem was a photo shoot in which she wore her mother’s blue-and-white dress and pipe cleaner-held pigtails.
Though innocent. Thomas later regretted naming his restaurant after his daughter and her likeness. Thomas told Melinda that he regretted naming her. Because he felt it put too much pressure on her.
After Finding No Good Hamburger In Columbus, Dave Thomas Founded Wendys
According to Biography.com. Dave Thomas created a restaurant empire after failing to find a good hamburger. Today, we know Thomas created more than a new burger. He introduced the square patty, and surrounded it with crispy vegetables. And kept it fresh for a burger stand taste without sogginess from the round bun. Wendy’s opened their second Columbus location soon after and started selling those burgers worldwide.
Wendys Founder Was KFC’s, Head Cook
Dave Thomas’ fast food rise brought him interesting allies. boosting KFC and other famous brands.
Thomas was discharged from the Korean War and joined KFC’s kitchen in the 1950s. Although his ambition is obvious now. Thomas giving orders to the Colonel must have been a sight to behold
Thomas spiced up KFC’s image and cooked their chicken. Successful and iconic business innovations.
KFC’s old bucket-shaped rotating outdoor sign? Dave Thomas’ idea. Thomas suggested Sanders appear on TV. Which launched a successful series of ad campaigns that still feature the Colonel.
Dave Thomas’ KFC stake sale funded Wendys
KFC gave Thomas Eagle Scout duties. He streamlined the menu and expanded KFC’s chain. Thomas was offered a large stake in four Columbus KFC franchises if he could boost profits. Thomas excelled, and KFC promoted him to regional director of operations.
Thomas would never run Colonel Sanders’ business. Thomas decided to invest his seed money in his own venture after securing it. Thomas sold his $1.5 million 1968 KFC stake. He opened the first Wendys at 35.
Wendy’s First Served Frosty
Head cook experience paid off. Thomas created hit after hit from Wendys first menu using his line chef skills. The Wendy’s Frosty, chilli, and hamburgers.
The Frosty, fast food’s thickest almost-milkshake, comes with a plastic spoon. Frosty’s counterintuitive nature is enticing. The Frosty, which must be melted or drunk with trumpeter’s cheeks, is another example of Thomas going left. When everyone else was right. Wendy’s first five menu items included Frosty. A family favorite. A lineup of classics’ cleanup hitters.
Beef Was Fresh Then And Now
Quality wasn’t “Born Again” for Dave Thomas either. Fresh ingredients were his company’s compass. Beef is paramount. Thomas kept patties out of the freezer before the 1980s “Where’s The Beef?” ads.
Wendy’s new-but-old-fashioned business model proved you could mass-produce wholesome taste. Thomas popularised and metaphorized the square patties of Kewpee Burgers (via AtlasObscura.com), a Midwest fast-food chain. “Why the square patties?” Thomas famously claimed Wendys didn’t cut corners.
Wendys First Location Was Successful, Prompting Rapid Franchise Expansion
After cooking for the troops in Korea and the Colonel at Kentucky Fried. Dave Thomas knew what he was doing behind the counter.
What about the overhead of running it yourself? Thomas proved he could run Wendys within a year. Wendy’s exceeded Thomas’s expectations thanks to his past experiences. Wendy’s expanded to over 1,000 new locations in ten years and doubled that number in the 1980s, despite wanting just enough revenue to run a small family business. Wendys is one of America’s largest fast-food chains, with over 5,000 locations.
The First Wendy’s Was A Museum
The original Wendy’s location collected memorabilia from their burger-selling success. Roadside America said their original square griddle was on a plaque in the dining room. Glass-walled displays preserved Wendy’s characters’ wardrobes. Including Melinda Lou’s blue-and-white dress.
The original Wendys became a pop-culture museum because its fans kept coming back for the memorabilia. Burgers and Frostys continued, too. Their specialty was mixing quality and kitsch—fans dined in Wendy’s lore, viewing many of their beloved and off-kilter ad campaigns.
Wendy’s first had no drive-thru
According to Roadside.com, Wendys invented the drive-thru in 1971 at another location. Designing the first drive-thru without supporting architecture was difficult. Downtown Columbus’ original Wendy’s lot wasn’t suitable for that innovation. A new restaurant couldn’t retrofit a drive-thru because the store faced Broad Street, a busy street.
Thomas promoted a family-style fast-food restaurant with fresh ingredients. Secret menus and simple, innovative dishes. Thomas would install his second restaurant’s drive-thru after Wendys expansion was halted. Starting another fast-food revolution as the rest of the industry followed suit and the drive-thru became ubiquitous.
The First Wendys Closed
Wendys first store closed in 2007. NBC News reported that management kept this franchise open longer than necessary out of sentimentality. But the location’s declining sales were insurmountable.
Wendy’s original appeal may have contributed to its demise. No parking or drive-thru. The world had moved past 1969 building codes. Fans and suits maintained nostalgia for a long time. But Dave Thomas reportedly knew his flagship was struggling before his 2002 death.
The museum dream survived the closure. Wendys moved its flagship to Dublin, Ohio, to recreate history with all the memorabilia from the original Wendy’s.
They Tried To Replicate Dublin, Ohio’s Wendy’s
Wendy’s built a flagship restaurant in Dublin, Ohio, to satisfy Wendys fans after seeing the museum’s appeal.
Wendy’s Dublin location shines. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant has three dining areas and seats over 100 people, according to Bizjournals.com. including a 24-seat patio.
The location preserved Wendy’s nostalgia while moving forward. A large “Community Room” with Wendy’s lore, flat screens, self-order kiosks, and wi-ii.
The new Wendys has a room dedicated to Wendy’s history. But you could argue that the entire restaurant is a monument to Dave Thomas.