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

Dave Thomas, a successful Kentucky franchise owner Fried Chicken in Columbus, Ohio, and a protégé of founder Colonel Harlan Sanders, struggled in 1969 to find a name for a new burger concept he hoped to open.

The fast food burgers market was getting crowded, but Thomas believed there was room for more affluent young adults – the Baby Boomer generation – who were unhappy with burgers chains for children. These customers, he said, crave fresh beef and their own choice of side dishes and would be willing to pay higher prices for a better burger.

Thomas wanted to name the restaurant after one of his five children and turn it into a family business. But none of his children’s names matched the nostalgic, family personality he wanted to create for the business.

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

He found what he believed to be the perfect name and mascot in his fourth child’s nickname.

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

Thomas told his daughter one day at home to pull her hair in ponytails and take pictures with her camera. She wore a blue-and-white striped dress sewn by her mother for the photos that would eventually make her a world-renowned fast food mascot.

“For me, nothing could be more appealing than showing a little girl, smiling and with pink cheeks, enjoying one of her burgers,” Thomas said. “Her clean, freckled face was that. I knew that was the name and image of the business.

The full name he chose, Wendy’s Old-fashioned Hamburgers, caused nostalgia, and his choice of a young child to serve as the brand’s hero was a long tradition in American branding. Jell-O, Morton Salt, Sun-Maid and others used girls and boys as mascots of the brand.

But Thomas later regretted his decision to name what would become a fast food empire after his daughter, believing it had put too much attention and pressure on her.

“She has lost part of her personal life,” he said in his autobiography. “Because some people still consider her an official spokesperson for the company, sometimes she shuts herself away from expressing her opinion. I don’t blame her.”

Before Thomas died in 2002, he apologized to his daughter for naming the restaurant after her.

Thomas told her, “I should have just named it after myself because it puts a lot of pressure on you,” said Wendy Thomas-Morse, who later became a Wendy’s franchisee, in a blog post on the chain’s 50th anniversary in 2019. г.

“Where’s the beef?”

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

It was a refined shade, with rugs, Tiffany lamps, hanging beads, and curved chairs. All the workers wore white aprons, with men in white pants, white shirts and black bow ties, and women in white dresses and scarves. It gave a “sense of purity and tradition,” Thomas said. Wendy’s burgers were twice the price of competing chains.

Disposable baby booms will increase to become Wendy’s main customers, and Wendy later added salad bars, baked potatoes, stuffed pies and other foods to take care of them.

By the mid-1970s, 82 percent of Wendy’s customers were over 25, “in stark contrast to all competitors,” wrote John Jakel and Keith Scle in their 1999 book Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the age of cars. “

There were more than 1,000 Wends in the United States in a decade.

The first
The company became famous for its square beef patties – to emphasize that they are bigger than the round muffins of competitors – and humorous advertising like hers from 1984. “Where’s the beef?” a campaign that helped increase Wendy’s annual revenue by 31% that year. The catchphrase became so popular that Walter Mondale, a possible Democratic presidential candidate that same year, asked his main opponent, Gary Hart, during a debate.
Thomas himself became a public figure for the brand, appearing in more than 800 Wendy’s commercials from 1989 until his death in 2002. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized his place as “The longest-running television advertising campaign featuring a founder to company .”

With a folk, plain appeal, Thomas usually showed up in a white short-sleeved shirt and red tie to advertise his burgers.

“Wendy’s burgers are square and old-fashioned. Dave Thomas was square and old-fashioned,” said an advertising expert when Thomas died.

Although Thomas may have apologized for naming his daughter’s chain, Wendy Thomas-Morse appeared in a 2011 ad featuring Wendy’s new cheeseburgers as “the hottest and juiciest ever,” named after the father. This was the first time she was used in an advertising campaign as Wendy’s national woman.

The burgers, she says on the spot, “would make Dad say, ‘Here’s beef.'”

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