Little Bits of History

Where’s the Beef?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 15, 2011

Dave Thomas

November 15, 1969: Dave Thomas founds Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in Columbus, Ohio. Thomas was inspired by Kewpee Hamburgers located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They, like Wendy’s, had square hamburgers and thick malt shakes which would become the delectable Frosty. The restaurant was named for Melinda Lou Thomas who was called Wendy. She was Thomas’s fourth child and her pictures remained at the original restaurant until it closed.

Thomas opened his second store, also in Columbus, the next year. That restaurant had what he claimed was the “first modern-day, drive-through window” but that wasn’t added until 1971. In 1979, Wendy’s became the first fast-food chain to have a salad bar. Wendy’s no longer has this feature, but does offer premade salads as part of their menu choices. They also have chicken sandwiches, baked potatoes, and chili. They have a breakfast menu as well which was last updated in 2007. Breakfasts were deployed in stages and it took years for them to be included in all Wendy’s.

Dave Thomas was born in 1932 to an unmarried woman he never knew. He was adopted at the age of six weeks and would become an advocate for adoption in his later years. He enlisted to serve in the army during the Korean War. After the war, Thomas was working as the head cook at a restaurant owned by the Clauss family. Col. Harland Sanders came to town and finally convinced them to become franchise owners of a KFC restaurant. Thomas and Sanders collaborated and the Colonel adopted many of Thomas’s suggestions.

Thomas moved on to his own chain and we were treated to our first Wendy’s on this day. The original store remained open until 2007. Today, there are 6,650 stores around the world. Perhaps the most famous commercial associated with the chain was with Clara Peller, and older woman standing at a counter plaintively asking, “Where’s the beef?” The ad was written by Cliff Freeman and the phrase became the catchphrase or meme of its time.

“If there are things you don’t like in the world you grew up in, make your own life different.”

“In the beginning there was nothing and God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was still nothing but everybody could see it.”

“It all comes back to the basics. Serve customers the best-tasting food at a good value in a clean, comfortable restaurant, and they’ll keep coming back.”

“There’s no one to stop you but yourself.” – all from Dave Thomas

Also on this day:
The King – In 1956, Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley’s first movie, was released.
Clutter Family – In 1959, Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two children were murdered.

One Response

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  1. V.E.G. said, on June 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Dave Thomas has a daughter, Melinda Lou Thomas. Melinda became Wendy.

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