Dave Thomas (businessman) : biography
Thomas opened his first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, November 15, 1969. (This original restaurant remained operational until March 2, 2007, when it was closed due to lagging sales.) Thomas named the restaurant after his eight-year-old daughter Melinda Lou, whose nickname was "Wendy", stemming from the child’s inability to say her own name at a young age. According to Bio TV, Dave claims himself that people nicknamed his daughter "Wenda. Not Wendy, but Wenda. ‘I’m going to call it Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers’."
In 1982, Thomas resigned from his day-to-day operations at Wendy’s. However, by 1985, several company business decisions, including an awkward new breakfast menu and loss in brand awareness due to fizzled marketing efforts, caused the company’s new president to urge Thomas back into a more active role with Wendy’s.Foltz, Kim, The Media Business: Advertising; At Wendy’s, Folksiness Is Effective, The New York Times, August 22, 1990 Thomas began to visit franchises and espouse his hardworking, so-called “mop-bucket attitude.” In 1989, he took on a significant role as the TV spokesman in a series of commercials for the brand. Thomas was not a natural actor, and initially, his performances were criticized as stiff and ineffective by advertising critics.
By 1990, after efforts by Wendy’s agency, Backer Spielvolgel Bates, to get humor into the campaign, a decision was made to portray Thomas in a more self-deprecating and folksy manner, which proved much more popular with test audiences.Foltz, Kim, The Media Business: Advertising; At Wendy’s, Folksiness Is Effective, August 22, 1990 Consumer brand awareness of Wendy’s eventually regained levels it had not achieved since octogenarian Clara Peller’s wildly popular "Where’s the beef?" campaign of 1984.
With his natural self-effacing style and his relaxed manner, Thomas quickly became a household name. A company survey during the 1990s, a decade during which Thomas starred in every Wendy’s commercial that aired, found that 90% of Americans knew who Thomas was. After more than 800 commercials, it was clear that Thomas played a major role in Wendy’s status as the country’s third most popular burger restaurant.
Honors and memberships
Thomas, realizing that his success as a high school dropout might convince other teenagers to quit school (something he later claimed was a mistake), became a student at Coconut Creek High School. He earned a GED in 1993. Thomas was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1999.
Thomas was a Freemason at Sol. D. Bayless Lodge No. 359 Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a member of the Shriners; he received the honorary 33rd degree in 1995. He was also an honorary Kentucky colonel, as was former boss Colonel Sanders.The History Channel – American Eats
Thomas was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.