13 Fascinating Facts About Wendy’s You Never Knew

In the world of burger chains, Wendy’s is behind its major competitors, McDonald’s and Burger King, based on the number of locations. Famous for its fresh, never-frozen square patties, Frostys, and chili, Wendy’s has cultivated a dedicated fan base. It continues to be a tough competitor by sticking to the original recipes and concepts introduced by its founder, Dave Thomas.

But how well do you know this longstanding fast food brand and its notable founder? Whether you frequently dine at Wendy’s or just stop by occasionally for a Frosty, here are 13 interesting facts about Wendy’s.

Wendy’s started in 1969

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While not as old as McDonald’s or Burger King, Wendy’s is certainly not new to the scene. Today, it is all around the world. Wendy’s is the third-largest burger chain worldwide and has been in existence for over five decades since it was founded in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio by Dave Thomas.

Wendy’s opened its first European restaurant  in Munich, Germany, in 1979

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500 Wendy’s franchisees had been established throughout the US and Canada by 1976. In 1979, they started to spread over Europe, initially to Germany. With the opening of its first franchise in Japan in 1980, followed by Hong Kong in 1982 and South Korea in 1984, Wendy’s made its foray into the Asian market. Wendy’s didn’t go worldwide until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it did so in Mexico, Turkey, New Zealand, and Indonesia. After over 5 decades in business, Wendy’s is still recognized as a well-liked fast-food hamburger franchise. It has developed menus that reflect regional flavors and grown its company internationally.

Wendy is the real name of a person

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The name Wendy isn’t fictional. The founder, Dave Thomas, named the restaurant after his daughter, Melinda Lou “Wendy” Thomas-Morse. Her image inspired the red-pigtailed character in the Wendy’s logo, and she has been featured in numerous commercials. She and her siblings continue to own several Wendy’s outlets across the United States.

Dave Thomas was an early supporter of KFC

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Before becoming a famed fast food icon, Dave Thomas consulted for another future icon: Col. Harland Sanders. In the 1950s, while working at a restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, called the Hobby House, Thomas met Sanders, who was looking for franchisees for his Kentucky Fried Chicken concept. Once the Hobby House joined KFC, Thomas contributed to building the brand with ideas like a simplified menu, the iconic red-and-white bucket, and encouraging Sanders to star in his own commercials. After selling his KFC shares back to Sanders for $1.5 million, Thomas left with the funds and experience needed to start his own chain.

Dave Thomas appeared in several commercials

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While the red-headed Wendy’s mascot is widely recognized, and Clara Peller became notable in the ‘80s, Dave Thomas is perhaps the most familiar face in Wendy’s TV history. From the restaurant’s founding in 1969 until he died in 2002, he featured in over 800 commercials.

They started with just five items

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Originally, Wendy’s menu was quite basic. Upon its opening in 1969, the fast-food franchise offered just five items, which are still available today: hamburgers, fries, chili, soft drinks, and the now-iconic Frosty dessert.

Wendy’s was one of the first to do drive-thrus

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While Wendy’s was not the inventor of the drive-thru nor the first to implement it, they were pioneers in adding a drive-thru window at every location. The first Wendy’s drive-thru, dubbed the “pick-up window” by Dave Thomas, was introduced in 1971, a novel concept for many patrons who needed guidance on how to use it.

The strategy behind the square patties

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Dave Thomas would often say his burger patties were square because Wendy’s doesn’t cut corners. However, the real motivation behind the square shape was to differentiate Wendy’s burgers by emphasizing their size and quality, making them more visible and less likely to be hidden by the bun.

They sell 300 million Frostys every year

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Wendy’s Frostys, often enjoyed with a side of fries, are extremely popular. Remarkably, around 300 million Frostys are sold each year. Even those who aren’t particularly fond of chocolate can appreciate a Frosty now and then since they feature a blend of chocolate and vanilla flavors, creating a mild chocolate taste.

Wendy’s had a value menu before others

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A good ten years before Burger King launched its own value menu, Wendy’s had already embraced the concept. In 1989, Wendy’s introduced a full menu of items priced at just 99 cents. This strategy not only offered customers more variety at a lower cost but often led them to buy multiple items.

They were the first fast-food restaurant to add a salad bar

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In 1979, Wendy’s introduced their salad bar, becoming the first fast-food restaurant to do so. Named the Superbar, it offered various themed areas like the “Garden Spot” and “Pasta Pasta,” where customers could serve themselves unlimited salad sides for $2.99. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in 1988 as it was hard to maintain and keep clean.

Wendy’s has its charitable foundation

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According to Statista, Wendy’s has opened over 7200 quick service restaurants by 2023 Wendy’s has a charity called the Ronald McDonald House Charities or the foundations supported by Burger King and Taco Bell, but Wendy’s also runs its unique charity. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption focuses on finding homes for children in foster care, a mission dear to Thomas, who was adopted as an infant.

The Original Wendy’s Closed in 2007

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In 2023, The Wendy’s Company saw its revenue climb to $2.18 billion, indicating an increase from the previous year. Like numerous other fast food restaurants in the U.S., Wendy’s focuses its menu on the timeless pairing of burgers and fries. Surprisingly, the very first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, shut its doors in 2007 after 38 years of operation due to declining sales, a few years after it began sharing its space with a Tim Hortons. After closing, the building underwent a $1.7 million renovation and now serves as the headquarters for the city’s Catholic Foundation.

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