In the pantheon of burger chains, Wendy’s ranks a distant third to its biggest competitors, McDonald’s and Burger King, in terms of number of locations. With its never-frozen square patties, Frostys, and chili, however, it has developed a loyal following and manages to remain a fierce competitor while sticking to the core formula first devised by founder Dave Thomas in 1969. But whether you’re a regular customer or just an occasional Frosty buyer, we bet that there are some things you didn’t know about Wendy’s.
Thomas and Colonel Sanders worked together closely in order to make KFC more profitable, and Thomas, who was one of the Midwest’s most successful franchisees, was more than happy to be of assistance. Along with making the fabled suggestion that Sanders appear in KFC commercials himself, Thomas also encouraged Sanders to implement the chain’s defining feature: the family-style chicken bucket.
Thomas spent his early childhood in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where one of the most popular burger joints was a restaurant named Kewpee Burger. Wendy’s “old-fashioned” hamburgers are old-fashioned because they’re prepared in the same style as Kewpee's, which opened in 1923 and sold burgers in a particular way: they’re square.
Unlike McDonald’s and Burger King, which has Big Macs and Whoppers, respectively, Wendy’s has no “signature” burger. Instead, it simply has two patty sizes: the Junior and Single.
The legendary “Where’s the Beef?” campaign, which marked Wendy’s’ entrance in the famed Burger Wars of the 1980s, helped differentiate the brand from its competitors and inspired an increase in sales. But in 1985, just one year after the first commercial starring 84 year-old Clara Peller aired, the campaign was dropped and Peller was fired after she appeared in a commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce in which she proclaimed that she had “finally found” the beef.
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Dave Thomas, who had resigned from the company in 1982, was coaxed back into the limelight in 1985 after the “Where’s the Beef?” campaign ended. He began to visit franchises and once again became the face of the company. He became the official spokesperson in 1989, and throughout the 1990s he appeared in more than 800 commercials for the brand.
The chain pulled all of its advertising from the sitcom Ellen in 1997 after star Ellen DeGeneres’ character came out of the closet on the air. The move resulted in a boycott from the gay and lesbian community.
Flickr. Todd kravos
Wendy’s was the first chain to introduce a menu where every item cost the same price. Their value menu, which launched in October 1989, 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.
Flickr/ Christian Kadluba
Single patties have always weighed four ounces, but in 2007 the Junior patty was reduced in size from two ounces to 1.78 ounces in order to save on expenses from rising food costs.
Flickr/ Joe Ross
Believe it or not, the very first Wendy’s closed for business after 38 years on March 2, 2007 due to flagging sales, several years after deciding to share its space with a Tim Hortons. The building underwent a $1.7 million renovation after its closure, and is today the headquarters of the city’s Catholic Foundation.
Actress Morgan Smith plays “Wendy” in the chain’s current advertising campaign, called “Now That’s Better,” which launched in April 2012. The actress’ primary claim to fame before winning the role was an appearance in the off-Broadway musical adaptation of actress Julianne Moore’s children’s book Freckleface Strawberry, and her hair is naturally a shade of dark blonde, although it is dyed red for the commercials. Smith is married to Dave Goodwin, a manager of acclaimed New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern.
The company recently opened “90° Labs” in Dublin, Ohio, as a “collaborative environment for Wendy's employees to explore forward-looking ways to utilize technology for key business initiatives.”
Wendy’s is opening “Image Activation” restaurants that feature an entirely new design, fireplaces, varied seating options including lounge chairs and booths, Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, and digital menu boards.
Wikimedia Commons/ The Dapper Dan
They were only broadcast locally in Ohio.
Wikimedia Commons/ The Dapper Dan
Wendy’s first attempted to serve breakfast in 1985, but the effort failed. They also attempted a breakfast rollout in 2007, but again, it failed. However, about a dozen restaurants still serve the breakfast menu of biscuit sandwiches, breakfast burritos, muffins, and hash browns.
The company has gone through nearly 30 slogans over the years, including “Where’s the beef?,” the flop “Give a little nibble,” and “Do what tastes right,” but their very first one, “Quality is our recipe,” is still on the logo today.
Wendy’s was one of the first major chain restaurants to adopt the modern-day drive-thru window. They introduced the feature in 1971.
The Frosty has been on the menu since the first location opened its doors in 1969. Originally, a Frosty cost just 35 cents.
Wendy’s uses the same slogan on its logo today as it did in 1969. But the fast food chain has been through its fair share of other quippy slogans, such as “Hot-N-Juicy,” “Give a little nibble,” “Parts is Parts,” and “Do what tastes right.”
Founder Dave Thomas was adopted at just six weeks old and was known for his adoption advocacy. In 1990 George H.W. Bush named Thomas head of the “Adoption Works… For Everyone” initiative, and in 1992 Thomas founded the Dave Thomas Adoption Foundation in order to help foster children.