At the time Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy's in Columbus Ohio, he wasn't looking to be the third largest burger chain in the US. He had been in the restaurant business over 20 years and his dream was to have a place of his own with a few franchises for his kids to run. He turned a profit in only six weeks and Wendy's was off and running.
Below is a few highlights of Dave Thomas's life. An ordinary guy doing
He was born July 2 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Adopted six weeks later by Rex and Aluva Thomas of Kalamazoo Michigan.
In 1937 Aluva dies of rheumatic fever and Dave's life changes forever. His dad moves a lot as he looks for satisfying work, eventually remarrying three times.
The stable influence in his life is his grandmother Minnie Sinclair who had a small farm in Michigan. He spent many summers with her learning the value of an honest days work.
At the age of 13 it's Minnie who tells Dave he was adopted. "It really hurt that nobody told me before, " he recalled "Life with my new parents was not easy….Yet without a permanent family of my own, I know I would not be where I am today, " he wrote in Parade Magazine. Finding orphaned kids a loving home becomes increasingly important to the Wendy's founder.
At 15, Dave lies about his age and becomes a busboy at the Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne Indiana. Phil Clauss, the owner of the restaurant becomes an important mentor. When his dad wants to move again, Dave refuses. He quits school to work at the restaurant full time and moves in with the Clauss family. (He called quitting school the worst mistake of his life)
Thomas volunteers for the army during the Korean Conflict. [fancy name for a war they don't want to call a war] He's transferred to Cook & Bakers School at Fort Benning before being shipped to Germany as a mess sergeant. Honorably discharged in 1953 as a staff sergeant, Thomas returns to Hobby House as a short order cook where he meets 18 year old waitress Lorraine Buskirk. They are married 7 months later.
Clauss owns a few Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Columbus Ohio that aren't as profitable as they should be. He offers Thomas a 45 percent cut in the restaurants if he returns them to profitability. The KFC turnarounds gets Thomas noticed by the hard working Colonel Sanders who becomes a mentor for many years.
Thomas eventually buys out Clauss and sells his chicken biz back to KFC for a nice profit. His next job is for Arthur Treachers Fish & Chips but Thomas is a burger guy and wants to run his own store.
The first Wendy's opens in Columbus Ohio Novemeber 15, 1969. He opens the second store in less than a year.
The Wendy's corporate site claims Thomas opened the first "modern" drive-thru window in 1971. Since eateries have had drive-thru food since the 30's you figure out what they mean.
Wendy's opens store number 500 and goes public in 1976.
1979 - Tries the salad bar. This signals the beginning of the end times [authors opinion purely speculative]
Dave tries his first stint as television pitchman in 1981 with poor results.
1983 - First of the big three burger joints with a baked potato
1984 - "Where's the Beef" campaign improves sales but George Bush uses the slogan as part of his presidential campaign and makes it insanely popular.
1989 - Dave finds his commercial voice and starts his successful television career as the face of Wendy's. He eventually stars in over 800
1992 - Dave establishes the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
1993 - always having said that leaving school was a mistake, Thomas enrolls in high school and earns his GED. According to his company biography, his classmates voted him "Most Likely to Succeed"
1996 - undergoes bypass surgery.
Thomas dies jan 8, 2002.