1950s and 60s: During this time, Thomas was involved with several KFC franchises. He worked with Colonel Sanders himself on some projects to make KFC more successful and better-known. One of Thomas’ suggestions to Sanders was that he should appear in commercials for his restaurant. The Colonel took him up on it, and Thomas himself used the idea years later, with obvious success for Wendy’s. His experience of running KFC franchises prepared him for his next business venture – opening his own hamburger restaurant.
November 15, 1969: After complaining he couldn’t find a good hamburger in Columbus, Thomas decided to open his own restaurant, Wendy’s, on this day. Wendy’s was named for his eight-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou, known as Wendy. She was the youngest of his five children with his wife Lorraine, whom he married in 1956. Known for its square hamburgers and choice of toppings, Wendy’s quickly caught on and, within less than a decade, grew into a franchise of 1,000 stores.
The Dollar Menu: Something Wendy’s pioneered. In 1989, Wendy’s was the first chain to introduce a menu where every item cost the same price. Their “value” menu had a set price of 99 cents. Burger King launched its 99-cent menu in 1998, and McDonald’s didn’t get around to launching their dollar menu until 2002.
Drive-through pickup: Though Wendy’s wasn’t the first to introduce this idea, they did re-shape how it worked and streamlined the process to make it easier and quicker. The honor for the first drive-through was In-N-Out in 1948. They introduced the concept of ordering through a speaker and then driving to a window to get the order. However, in 1971 Wendy’s re-shaped the idea. It was this system that was later implemented in just about every fast food chain there is today.
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