Wendy’s is a name that most people in the United States are intimately acquainted with. They’re well-known for their delicious burgers and more as one of the largest giants in the fast food industry. The chains have spread throughout the nation and they’ve built a solid reputation for consistently serving mouth-watering foods that are offered in a fast and convenient drive-through format unless you want to dine inside. Here are 20 things that we bet you didn’t know about Wendy’s to increase your knowledge of the massive American chain restaurant.
1. The founder of Wendy’s was friends with Colonel Harlon Sanders
Dave Thomas was working in the fast food industry at the age of just 12 years. He worked at a restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the head chef of the establishment that was called Hobby House. The restaurant was soon purchased by KFC and converted into a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise by Colonel Harlan Sanders personally. It was at this time that Dave Thomas and Sanders met and they became friends in the mid-1960s.
2. The KFC owner trusted Thomas to turn his business around
Here’s another fun fact that we bet most of you were not aware of. Harlan Sanders had so much faith in Dave Thomas that he asked him to help him in turning around four of the chicken franchises in Columbus, Ohio which were on the brink of failure. The businesses were failing to thrive and after becoming acquainted with Thomas and his ability to run a restaurant, Sanders believed that if anyone could save the four failing KFC locations, it would be him. His instincts proved to be correct because, within just a few years, Thomas who was granted franchise rights and shares in the four failing restaurants was able to sell them all back to Sanders for a whopping price of over $1.5 million.
3. Thomas opened Wendy’s with money made from KFC
When you consider the circumstances, it was really Thomas’s involvement with KFC that gave him the funds that he needed to open up the new restaurant that he named Wendy’s. He named the new establishment after his daughter, Melinda Lou. Her nickname was Wenda and this is where he derived the name that is similarly known as Wendy’s. He founded the first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969.
4. Wendy’s is the third largest burger chain in the nation
Wendy’s has become one of the most successful fast food chains in the entire United States. It comes in third only behind it’s two largest competitors. McDonald’s holds the rank of number one and Burger King comes in second place. It would be tough for Wendy’s to catch up with these two or even to surpass them because it occupies a distant third place, but the chain is doing just fine.
5. Wendy’s is international in its scope
How many of you knew that Wendy’s isn’t just an American fast food chain? This is yet another fact about Wendys that a lot of its loyal customers are not aware of, with the exception of those who make frequent visits to Canada, that is. Wendy’s had 500 locations throughout the United States and Canada by 1976. They’ve continued to grow and expand into Canada as well as throughout many other countries throughout the world. They now own and operate more than 6,650 restaurants throughout various parts of the world.
6. The Wendy’s founder invented KFC’s signature bucket of chicken
Here’s another fun fact that most people don’t know about. It was Dave Thomas that invented the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise’s famous Bucket of Chicken. He came up with the idea when he was working closely with Colonel Harlan Sanders to help in making the KFC chain more profitable. This is a menu item that has become a signature of the fast-food chicken brand and we’ve even been privileged to see commercials with the Colonel himself promoting the chicken bucket along with a catchy theme song with lyrics that said, “get a bucket of chicken, finger-lickin’ good, have a barrel of fun.” They owe this powerful sales gimmick all to Dave Thomas.
7. Wendy’s was inspired by a Michigan burger joint
Dave Thomas got the idea for Wendy’s from an established burger joint in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he had spent his early childhood. It was known as Kewpee Burger. Kewpee Burger first opened its doors in 1923 and had a very unique style of hamburgers. They were old-fashioned but instead of serving them in the traditional round format, the burgers were square shaped. We see that Thomas carried forward this tradition with Wendy’s hamburgers.
8. Wendy’s doesn’t have a signature burger
This is one distinction about Wendy’s that sets them apart from Burger King and McDonald’s. They do not have a signature burger per se. McD’s has the Big Mac and Burger King ha the Whopper but there isn’t one indicated from Wendy’s. They keep it simple and offer hamburgers in a choice of two patty sizes that includes the single and the junior size.
9. Wendy’s fired their 84-year old actress
How many of you remember the famous television commercials from the 1980s? They’re the ones that contained the legendary phrase, “Where’s the beef.” The commercial was a bold move that set them apart with a phrase that would stick in the minds of everyone that heard it and it was very effective in gaining attention and becoming quite well-known in popular culture. Wendy’s actually fired the 84-year old Clara Peller who was the actress with the famous gruff voice that demanded to know where the beef was. They did so after she starred in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial in which she proclaimed that she had “finally found the beef.” We can’t really blame them for it because the new commercial seriously undermined their famous advertising campaign by insinuating that the beef wasn’t really found at Wendy’s but rather in the Prego sauce.
10. Dave Thomas appeared in over 800 Wendy’s commercials
Now, this is a bit of trivia that we’re certain that not too many Wendys fans are aware of. Dave Thomas made his resignation and retirement from Wendy’s official in 1982. It wasn’t even a full three years later than the execs in charge of Wendy’s found a way to coax him out of retirement after the Where’s the Beef” campaign was over. They talked him into returning in 1985 and Dave began making visits to several of the franchises as the official face of the company and their official spokesperson in 1989. He made a high number of television commercials and throughout his career at Wendy’s and even beyond, Dave Thomas has appeared in over 800 commercials for the franchise.
11. Wendy’s used to advertise on the Ellen Show but stopped
Something interesting and unexpected happened with Wendy’s corporation in 1997. They had previously advertised Wendy’s on the Ellen Show, but they pulled all of their advertising with her when she came out of the closet on the air. This was a move that wasn’t expected, and it resulted in some negative consequences for the fast food chain. Because of their actions, the gay and lesbian community called for a boycott of their restaurants.
12. Wendy’s is the pioneer of the Dollar Menu
Now here is a fact we discovered that was news to all of us. All this time we just took it for granted that it was McDonald’s who pioneered the Dollar Menu that offered great bargains on popular fast food items. We couldn’t have been more mistaken. It was actually Wendy’s who promoted the first Dollar Menu of deals. They called it their value menu and it launched in October of 1989. Wendy’s offered a set price of 99 cents for selected items while Burger King offered their 99 cent menu in 1998 and McDonald’s didn’t join in the value menu strategy until much later in 2002. They were followed by Taco Bell’s value menu in 2014.
13. They cut back the portions in 2007
Here is a little-known fact about Wendy’s that most enthusiasts truly will not appreciate. Prior to 2007, the Junior Patties weighed a solid two ounces. In 2007, Wendy’s made the decision to cut back the weight to 1.78 ounces. They didn’t do anything to the Single patties which have always maintained a weight of four ounces. They cut back on the Junior patties in an attempt to save money when the costs of food went up, but this wasn’t a brilliant move on their part.
14. Wendy’s shut down its original location
It’s hard to believe, but the original Wendy’s and the first restaurant that was opened was closed down in 2007. The location of the restaurant was in Columbus, Ohio. After it had been in business for 38 years, it shut down. The building was converted into a Catholic Foundation for the city after undergoing a $1.7 million renovation.
15. Wendy’s has opened labs in Dublin, Ohio
The “Labs to Fuel Future Technology Innovation” is one of Wendy’s more recent ventures. The 90-degree labs are designed to help create a collaborative environment for the employees of the company to get together and explore new ways to use technology to achieves Wendy’s key business initiatives. It’s just one of the ways that the company is trying to integrate digital technology into the customer experience at Wendy’s.
16. Wendy’s is engaging in a brand transformation
You are likely to see a lot of changes in your local Wendy’s locations soon. They are in the process of transforming their brand and his means updating their local restaurants by incorporating a design that is completely new featuring varied seating options a fireplace, lounge chairs, booths, digital menu boards, a self-service kiosk, WiFi, flat screen televisions and more. It’s an exciting proposition for Wendy’s enthusiasts.
17. Dancing Hamburgers were featured on the first Wendy’s commercials
How many of you remember the very first Wendy’s television commercials that aired? Most of us don’t, but back in the day, Wendy’s paid for a 30-second spot on the air that featured a collection of three of Wendy’s famous burgers, including the triple, the double and the single in animation, dancing with Wendy while singing one of their own jungles. The commercials were broadcast in Ohio locally only, so if you didn’t live there, you have a good excuse for not remembering the commercial.
18. Wendy’s still uses its original slogan
Do you remember the very first slogan that Wendy’s used when it started advertising? To refresh your memory, it was “Quality is our recipe.” They’ve kept the famous saying on their logo all this time. This has endured long beyond the time that all of their other trendy gimmicks and saying have come and gone, including “Where’s the beef?” “Give a little nibble,” and “Do what tastes right.”
19. Wendy’s is the pioneer of the Drive-thru
Here’s another fun fact that a lot of people are not aware of. It was Wendy’s that actually first offered the modern-day drive-through window. They were the first of the major chains to offer this feature and it was offered in 1971.
20. Wendy’s offered a Black Bean Burger
This is another little known or remembered fact about Wendy’s. For a brief period of time, they offered a specialty burger that was called the Black Bean Burger. It was only offered in 24 locations throughout South Carolina, Ohio, and Utah. It featured a patty that was made from black beans, farro, onions, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, carrots, bell peppers, and corn. It was topped with a high-end sauce consisting of red wine vinegar, cumin, chili peppers, oregano, and cilantro. The Black Bean Burger wasn’t around for long though. It became one more of the several failed specialty burger attempts that Wendy’s had made throughout their history. At least they were trying though and even though it wasn’t a big hit, it was at least one of their most unique attempts at being different.