Wendy founder Dave Thomas named his daughter after the chain. That’s why he regretted it.

Dave Thomas, a successful Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner in Columbus, Ohio and a supporter of founding colonel Harlan Sanders, was struggling in 1969 to find a name for a new burger concept he wanted to open.

The fast food burger market was saturating, but Thomas believed that there was an opening for richer young people – the Baby Boomer generation – who were not satisfied with the burger chains aimed at children. These customers thought they wanted fresh veal and their chosen toppings and would be willing to pay higher prices for a better quality burger.

Thomas wanted to name the restaurant one of his five children and turn it into a family business. But none of her children’s names match the nostalgic nature of the family values ​​she wanted to create for the business.

From Sanders ’tutoring at KFC, Thomas learned the value of using a pet to create an emotional bond with customers and a“ personal identity associated with the restaurant, ”he said in his 1991 autobiography“ Dave’s Way ”.

In the nickname of his fourth child he found what he thought was the perfect name and pet.

Melinda Lou, Thomas’ eight-year-old daughter, was nicknamed Wenda when she was born because her siblings couldn’t pronounce her name. Soon after, her family started calling Wendy.

Thomas told his daughter one day to lift her hair at home and take pictures with her camera. Her mother wore a white-and-blue striped dress for photos that would eventually become a world-famous fast food pet.

“For me, nothing would be more appealing than showing a little girl with a smiling, pink cheek” enjoying her burger, Thomas said. “His face was clean and clean. I knew that was the name and image of the business.”

The full name she chose – “Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers” – sparked nostalgia, and choosing a small child to serve as a brand character was a long tradition in the American brand. Jell-O, Morton Salt, Sun-Maid and others used girls and boys as brand pets.

But Thomas later regretted the decision to name his daughter the fast food empire, putting too much attention and pressure on her daughter.

“He’s lost a bit of his privacy,” he said in his autobiography. “Some people still consider him an official spokesman for the company, so sometimes he covers it up when he talks about himself. I don’t blame him.”

Before Thomas died in 2002, he apologized to his daughter for giving the restaurant its name.

Thomas said, “I should name myself because it put a lot of pressure on you,” recalled Wendy Thomas-Mors, who later became a franchisee of Wendy’s in a 2019 blog post for the chain’s 50th anniversary. .

“Where’s The Beef?”

Wendy’s first restaurant opened in downtown Columbus, Ohio in 1969.

It had a sleek feel, with rugs, Tiffany lamps, hanging beads and folded wood chairs. All the staff wore white aprons, the men in white trousers, a white shirt and a black bow tie, and the women in white dresses and scarves. This gave Thomas a “sense of cleanliness and tradition,” he said. Wendy’s burgers were twice the price of chain rivals.

Baby Boomers with a lucrative income would grow into Wendy’s main customers, and Wendy would later add salad bars, baked potatoes, stuffed noodles, and other foods.

By the mid-1970s, 82% of Wendy’s customers were over 25, “in stark contrast to all competitors,” wrote John Jakle and Keith Sculle in their 1999 book “Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age”.

In a decade, there were more than 1,000 Wendys across the United States.

The company became famous for its square beef – which was larger than the round cakes of its competitors – and the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” for humorous advertisements like. campaign, which helped increase Wendy’s annual revenue by 31% that year. The phrase became so popular that Walter Mondal, the Democratic presidential candidate that year, asked his opponent Gary Hart a question in a discussion.
Thomas himself became the public face of the brand, appearing in more than 800 Wendy’s ads from 1989 until his death in 2002. The Guinness Book of World Records has been recognized for its positions. . ”

With a crowded appeal, Thomas usually showed up with a white short-sleeved shirt and a red tie to sell his burgers.

“Wendy’s burgers are square and outdated. Dave Thomas was square and outdated,” an expert ad said when Thomas died.

Although Thomas apologized to the chain for naming his daughter, Wendy Thomas-Morse appeared in a 2011 ad announcing Wendy’s new cheeseburger as “the hottest and juiciest ever,” in honor of her father. It was the first time she had been used as a national colleague of Wendy’s in an ad campaign.

The burger, he says on the spot, “would tell his father, ‘Here’s the beef.'”


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