Success Story of Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s

Born: July 2, 1932 Died: January 8, 2002

David “Dave” Thomas, an American fast-food tycoon and philanthropist, was widely known for his establishment of the largest fast-food restaurant chain called Wendy’s that specializes in hamburgers. During his lifetime, Thomas appeared in over 800 commercial advertisements for the chain.

Thomas was born in 1932 to a young unmarried woman in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was adopted by Rex and Auleva Thomas when he was only 6 weeks old. After the death of his adoptive mother from rheumatic fever, Thomas spent his early life at a small farm in Michigan with his grandmother, Minnie Sinclair, who played important role in teaching him to be honest and humble in life. Thomas spent most of his life away from his adoptive father who frequently traveled across the US looking for new opportunities. At the age of 12, Thomas started working at a restaurant called The Regas in Knoxville of Tennessee. Thomas reportedly quit his job in less than a month following an argument with his boss; however, his boss was impressed with his dedication to work and kept his autographed photograph at the entrance of the restaurant till it was finally closed in 2009. At the age 15, Thomas moved to Indiana along with his father and started working for Hobby House Restaurant and had to stop his school studies forever. In 1950, he joined the US army as a mess sergeant and served for three years; and then returned to Fort Wayne and the Hobby House.

Dave Thomas experienced a life changing moment whilst working at Hobby House when he first met Col. Harland Sanders, founder of KFC. He spent next couple of years helping KFC expand its base across Indiana and sold his shares back to Sanders for $1.5 million.
In 1969, he started his first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, and gave the name to the restaurant after his eight-year-old daughter Melinda Lou, (nickname “Wenda”)

As of 2011, Wendy’s is the world’s third largest fast food chain with approximately 6,650 centers, serving a variety of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, French fries and beverages.

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