The Inspirational Story of Wendy’s Dave Thomas

The late Dave Thomas was an American philanthropist and fast food tycoon. He is best remembered for his numerous appearances in commercial adverts for his fast- food restaurants that specialize in hamburgers. As the founder and former chief executive officer of Wendy’s, Dave had made more appearances in commercial advertisements for the chain than any other company in the history of television.

He was born on the second of July, 1932, in Atlantic City. At the age of six months, he was adopted by a couple from Michigan and never knew his biological mother. He went through a lot as a child having lost two stepmothers by the time he was ten years of age. During the summers, he lived with his adoptive grandmother who became his closest relative and impacted the greatest influence in him. She would teach him the significance of service and respecting others, lessons that he would later apply in his adult life.

He moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, while in his pre- teen years and worked a few jobs as a, golf caddy, paperboy, and a soda fountain counter. At the age of 12, he got a job at a restaurant in Knoxville (Ragas restaurant) which he then lost in a dispute with his employer.  He later dropped out of school while in the 10th grade at the age of 15 to work full time at restaurant after his family moved out of Fort Wayne and swore never to loose a job ever again. He greatly regretted dropping out of school but would later come to graduate from high school after obtaining a GED in 1993.

In 1950, Dave volunteered for the U.S. army and requested cook’s and baker’s school at Fort Benning, Georgia at the outbreak of Korean War. He was sent to Germany to serve as a mess sergeant and this saw him responsible for the meals of 2000 soldiers daily. Upon discharge, he returned to Fort Wayne. He took a job from his former boss at the hobby house and proved his skills. He helped in the implementation of important ideas that saw the sales of Kentucky fried chicken rise and make more profits giving it brand recognition. At the age of 35, he sold the franchise back to Sanders for $1.5 million after having worked for only a few years in Columbus Ohio.

By this time, Dave had gathered more than enough experience and his skills would later prove to be useful in the restaurant business. Dave complained that he could not find a good hamburger in Columbus. A year later in 1969, Dave opened his own restaurant (Wendy’s) which was named after his daughter (Melinda Lou) aged 8. The business flourished and had grown to more than 1, 000 stores within a period of less than ten years.

In the year 1952, he relinquished control over the businesses to a new president but for years later the sales started slagging down. His expertise was therefore required and this saw his assume a more active role in the company.

In a bid to return the business to its former glory, Thomas took to visiting the franchises and adopting his hard working attitude (mop- bucket attitude). He would later in 1989 take the role of television spokesman for the company. Initially, the commercial adverts saw him get heavily criticized as stiff and inefficient. However, the advert commercials became more successful during the 1990s following several changes in his performance. With the success in the adverts, Wendy’s consumer brand awareness eventually managed to regain levels that had not been experienced before. During the 1990s, he had rapidly become a household name. He was now the force behind Wendy’s status as the number- three-burger in the United States with over 6, 000 franchises.  After more than 800 appearances in television commercials, he was one of the most familiar faces on television and 90% of Americans were now familiar with him.

His life activities however did not solely focus on business. Dave Thomas knew the significance of having an education and became a student at Coconut Creek High School. With the help of a personal tutor, he managed to graduate after passing the GED High School equivalency exam. He did this also to set an example to the young people so that they would not take education lightly and expect success to come their way easily. He also dedicated his life promoting adoption of foster children and founded the Dave Thomas foundation for adoption.

This foundation promoted the implementation of an employee benefits program for individuals who adopt as well as several ground breaking initiatives. He was named as the National spokesman on the issues of adoption by the then president, George Bush. In 1999, Dave Thomas became inducted in to the junior achievement U.S, business hall of fame for his success as an entrepreneur and success in business. He went on to receive many other honors and memberships in later years.

Even following a long battle with cancer that had spread to his liver and kidney, Dave would still strive to return to his busy life schedule. This is another example of another brave individual who faced all the odds in his early life and rose above the expectations of many.