The History of Wendys Restaurant

The history of fast food restaurants in America would be incomplete without the inclusion of the story of Dave Thomas’s Wendy’s.  November 15, 1969, a red-letter date for Wendy’s restaurant, in Columbus, Ohio Dave Thomas’ Wendy’s became a reality.  Dave finally fulfills a dream he had from a little boy. 

Starting at age 12, Dave Thomas began building the Wendy’s brand.  First working as a counterman at the Regas Restaurant in Knoxville Dave Thomas learns determination when he loses his job after a misunderstanding with his boss about his vacation.  This determination lead him at age 15 to work as a busboy at a Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana where commitment becomes a part of the Wendy’s brand.  When Dave’s family decides to move he refuses to go and quits school to work full time.  During his time with Hobby House Dave learns how to promote a restaurant that leads to the development of the Wendy’s brand of promotion. 

In 1956 while working at Hobby House, Dave meets and marries waitress named Lorraine. Several children are born to this union but it is his second child Melinda Lou Thomas (nicknamed Winda) who will prove to be special in fulfilling his childhood dream of one day owning a restaurant.  Dave names his store Wendy’s after his daughter because of her problem saying her name.  Prior to his marriage in 1956, Dave serves on active duty during the Korean War in 1953 as a mess sergeant where he believes he learned the skills in mass feedings that leads to Wendy’s success as a fast food restaurant.

The launch of Wendy’s restaurant came after Dave had worked in turning around four failing Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants and turned them into million dollar successes.  Later, after selling his KFC franchises Dave finally had enough capital to open his first restaurant in 1969.  This first restaurant was the beginning of the branding of Wendy’s that was built upon the five pillars of quality, giving something back, profit is not a dirty word, just be nice, and doing the right thing (Hayes, 2004).  From these humble beginnings, the restaurant expanded to over 3,000 stores by 1985 and became the nation’s eighth-largest restaurant company and parent of the industry’s third largest burger chain (Hayes, 2004).

During the mid-1980’s Dave Thomas became a household name in the famous Wendy’s commercials.  This emphasis drives Wendy’s continuing growth eventually, leading to Wendy’s evolution as one of the two leading fast food business in the restaurant industry influenced by technology.  Wendy’s began using supply chain management to help the company to continue focusing on meeting the needs of the family (Data Monitor, 2008). Wendy’s has now incorporated technology to increase the stores efficiency and effectiveness in doing business and continuing the dream of Dave Thomas.


Data Monitor (2008).  Wendy’s International, Inc., Company Profile.  Retrieved June 19, 2009,

     from Business Source Complete database.

Hayes, J. (2004).  Dave Thomas, founder, Wendy’s International Inc. Nation’s Restaurant News,

     Retrieved June 19, 2009, from