Dave Thomas was an American businessman and philanthropist who founded the world famous hamburger chain “Wendy’s”. He appeared in over eight hundred television advertisements to promote his restaurant.
Thomas was born on 2nd July 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He spent most of childhood with his grandmother who taught him to be good to others and the significance of respect and good service to others. These lessons proved very useful to him later on in life. Thomas’s first job was at a restaurant called “The Regas” in Tennessee however that lasted for a short while as he got into an argument with his boss. At 15, he started living with his father and started a part-time job in Fort Wayne at “Hobby House Restaurant” while he went to high school. After some time he dropped out of school to work full-time at the job. However he regretted this decision and called it the biggest mistake of his life. He completed his high school graduation in 1993.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950 Thomas volunteered for the U.S army. Because he had experience in food production and service, he wished to be sent to the “Cook’s and Baker’s School” at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was ordered to go to Germany where he was a mess sergeant with the responsibility of providing food to more than 2000 soldiers. Thomas was promoted to the post of Staff Sergeant. After his discharge in 1953, he went back to work at Hobby House in Fort Wayne. In middle of 1950s the owner and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken Col. Harland Sanders came to town searching for reputable restaurateurs who would be interested in buying the KFC franchises. Thomas was head cook at the time and initially he refused the offer from Sanders but later he agreed and recommended KFC franchise to the Clauss family (owner of the Hobby House). By 1960s Thomas was fully involved in the promotion of the KFC stores in other cities.
Thomas opened his first Wendy’s restaurant in November 1969 in Columbus, Ohio. He named it after his daughter Melinda whose nickname was Wendy. Although he resigned from the day to day operation in 1982, the company’s losing sales and poor marketing efforts forced him back to a more active position. In 1989, he started appearing in TV commercials for Wendy’s. Soon, Thomas became very popular with the audiences so much so that by 1990s almost every American was aware who Thomas was and that made Wendy’s the third most popular restaurant in America. In 1999, he was inducted in the Junior Achievement U.S Business Hall of Fame. He was also an honorary Kentucky Colonel. After his death he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Thomas played a huge role in the success of his restaurant chains. In 1996, he went through a bypass surgery but returned to his normal life soon. In 2001, he suffered from kidney problems and had to go through dialyses. Thomas died on 8th January 2002 at the age of 69, due to liver cancer.