In some ways, The Wendy's Company (NASDAQ:WEN) has remained out of the spotlight since its founder Dave Thomas's death in 2002. Ever since its first restaurant opening in 1969, though, the fast-casual restaurant has remained loyal to its quality ingredients and hamburgers made fresh every time which has kept sales strong and steady. In fact, in 2012 Wendy's was ranked fourth in The QSRs' Top 50 brands beating such competitors as Burger King Worldwide, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Dunkin' Brands Group. By reading these facts, about the company and its founder, you may find a new appreciation for Wendy's.
KFC yielded the seed money to start Wendy's
After Dave Thomas returned from being discharged from the army in the mid 1950's, Thomas returned to his current residence and job in Fort Wayne, Indiana working for the Hobby House restaurant which was owned and operated by the Clausse family. During this time, Thomas was introduced to the founder of now Yum! Brands, owned Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland Sanders, who had just moved to Fort Wayne in order to sell KFC franchises to local business owners. After much debate, the Clausse family purchased several KFC franchises throughout the Midwest.
Thomas spent time working alongside Sanders to promote the KFC brand. Two of Thomas's suggestions to Sanders that were quickly implemented included offering a signature chicken bucket on the menu, and secondly, advising Sanders himself to appear in KFC commercials. In 1960, the Clausses sent Thomas to Columbus, Ohio to manage the family's four KFC franchises. Thomas's management practices and knack for creating brand awareness sent sales through the roof leading him to sell his shares in KFC for $1.5 million to pursue his own venture – Wendy's. If you're keeping track, that is TWO major fast food brands that Dave Thomas has left his mark on. This is proof that businesses with novel inventions that stick in the minds of consumers, like KFC chicken buckets, can have fantastic long term results for shareholders!
Where's the beef?
Wendy's had its most successful year, since its founding, in 1984 thanks to its slogan "Where's the beef". The famous phrase was used in Wendy's television commercial in January that year. The commercial starred Clara Peller, featuring she and two other elderly women conversing about the large, fluffy bun that lay before their eyes. Once Peller lifts the top of the bun off, they see the smallest form of beef to which they ask the question "Where's the beef".
The commercial won over audiences across the globe. Television shows, print ads, movies, and radio stations all began incorporating the popular phrase into their own material. Soon, other items such as bumper stickers, clothing, and other knick-knacks were produced embedded with the phrase "Where's the Beef". Those not born until after 1985 probably did not grasp the symbolism in Wendy's 2011 advertising campaign "Here's the beef".
President H.W. Bush hated broccoli but loved Wendy's hamburgers
Many people are unaware that founder Dave Thomas was given up for adoption at just six weeks of age due to his mother being young and a single parent. Throughout his career, Thomas has made his adoption efforts known through Wendy's many missions, specifically "Give Back to the Community," and worked profusely to fulfill this mission. He did this through his adoption efforts. In October 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas as the lead spokesman for the campaign "Adoption Works...For Everyone." Thomas took advantage of this fantastic opportunity by providing abundant resources to support the cause. Then, in September 1992 Thomas created the Dave Thomas Adoption Foundation to find homes for foster children. To ensure the program's success, Wendy's Wonderful Kids Grants were gifted to both public and private adoption agencies to pay for adoption professionals who have the best tools and recruitment programs at their disposal to quickly find American foster children the right home.
Wendy's goes back to school
Forty-five years after leaving high school to work full-time and serve in the military, Dave Thomas returned to high school to receive his high school diploma. Although Thomas has already become a successful businessman at this point, he wanted to send the right message to students – education is important to excel in one's career and ambitions. In 1993, Thomas received his GED at the Coconut Creek High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Shortly after graduating, Thomas established the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida which features programs for young adults to obtain their GED.
With these little known facts it should be clear to any Foolish Reader that not only does Wendy's have a one of a kind history but all the things that have led Wendy's to be one of the best recognized restaurant chains in America remain intact. This is particularly useful to Foolish investors considering an investment in the retail food space. As always investors should do their own research before making any investment decisions.
Fool contributor Natalie O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.