David “Dave” Thomas was born on 2nd July 1932 in Atlantic City in New Jersey and became a millionaire by founding Wendy’s Old fashioned Hamburgers which was a chain of fast-food restaurants that focused specifically on hamburgers. He also worked as the Chief Executive Officer for the company and appeared in over 800 adverts for the company over the years 1989 to 2002 which is a greater number than any other personality in television ever.
Thomas did not graduate from high school until later on in life. He is said to have learned the value of service and respecting others from his grandmother, which served him well later in his business. His first cousin Greg Back was also influential in Thomas’s business.
Thomas first entered the restaurant business at the age of 12 when he worked for the Regas Restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee as a counterman. It has been said the he aspired to go into the hamburger business because he used to love the food from a Kewpee restaurant in Ipple, Michigan.
At the time of the Korean War he volunteered to join the U.S. Army so that he could get a choice in his assignments. He requested to go into the Cook’s and Baker’s School a Fort Benning in Georgia. He got sent to Germany where he worked as a mass sergeant and was in charge of the meals for around 2000 soldiers every day. He later said that this helped him in his accomplishment in the fast food industry. In 1953 he was honourably discharged ranking as Staff Sergeant.
After he was discharged he helped to save a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was in trouble. He was responsible for transforming the fast food industry by making the menu simpler. He worked with the founder of KFC Colonel Harland Sanders to reduce the amount of food on the menu, to focus on a signature dish and to introduce a trademark symbol. By 1968 the sales of four fried chicken fast food restaurants he had worked on had gone up by such a large amount that he sold the share he had back to Colonel Sanders for over $1.5 million.
The first Wendy’s was opened by Thomas in 1969 in Columbus in Ohio. It was named after his daughter. In 1982 he quit his everyday tasks but by 1985 he was urged to come back into a more significant position in the company due to dwindling marketing efforts. In 1989 he became the TV spokesman for the company. The company became America’s third most popular burger restaurant.
By the time of his death in 2002 there were over 6000 Wendy’s restaurants operating in the United States.