As a child, Dave Thomas’s favorite restaurant was Kewpee Hamburgers, the second-ever chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants. Their staple items were square hamburgers and thick malt milkshakes, much like Wendy’s.
Mr. Thomas is the person responsible for introducing the KFC trademark sign, featuring a revolving red-striped bucket of chicken. He was the first person to successfully implement a drive-through window in a restaurant, which is of course, now available at nearly all fast food restaurants.
Wendy’s was the first to successfully create a ‘fast food’ style restaurant that didn’t pre-cook its food or used pre-made frozen items. Dave Thomas credited his ability to do this with the know-how he gained in cooking for more than 2,000 soldiers daily while in the United States Army.
Dave Thomas never met or knew who his biological parents were, other than that they were of Greek descent and that his biological mother was single and dirt poor due the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Mr. Thomas became a Freemason, a member of the Shriners, and an honorary Kentucky Colonel.
Realizing that his success as a high school dropout might convince other teenagers to quit school, something he later admitted was one of his life’s greatest mistakes, he later became a student at Coconut Creek High School, and in 1993, he received a G.E.D. (General Education Diploma, an equivalent to a High School Diploma), being voted by his classmates as, “most likely to succeed.”
He appeared in more than 800 Wendy’s television commercials, achieving the record for “Longest Running Television Advertising Campaign Starring a Company Founder,” according to the “Guinness Book of World Records.”
Being adopted himself, he founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to help children find homes, and to help them and their new families after the adoption.
In 1979, Mr. Thomas’ rags-to-riches story earned him the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
Upon the passing of his mentor, ‘Colonel’ Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mr. Thomas ordered that all flags at Wendy’s franchises be flown at half-staff. Dave Thomas himself passed on at 69 years of age on 8 January 2002.
If Dave Thomas could do great things with burgers, what can you do, with what you have, where you are?
Wendy’s has more than 6,700 restaurants around the world today. For more information, visit https://www.wendys.com/.