Original Wendy's restaurant
Dave's Legacy
The Story of Wendy’s Founder Dave Thomas

Wendy’s Founder Dave Thomas was born in New Jersey in 1932 and died in January 2002. Read his biography and the story of his legacy – from founding the first Wendy’s in Ohio in 1969 to establishing the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Dave Thomas as a young boy
Part One
The Early Years

When he was eight years old, Dave Thomas dreamed he'd run the best restaurant in the world. He didn't just achieve his dream, he shared it with everyone. Dave loved two things above all else: food and people. That's why he started Wendy's. He believed in a place where you get great food, made fresh, served by nice people. At Wendy’s, we do our best to carry on that simple idea, every day. Our name is Wendy's, but we will always be Dave's Place.

Regas Restaurant
Dave in the Military, Family-Life and his introduction to the Restaurant Business

All great leaders must start somewhere, and for Dave, that was a family restaurant in Knoxville. Hard work and a little initiative were all it took to create a reputation of someone who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

Original Wendy's restaurant
Founding Wendy’s

Dave’s boyhood dream came true in 1969 when he opened the first Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Wendy's became known for square hamburgers, made from fresh beef, that hang over the bun, because we don’t cut corners on quality.

Dave with children
A Champion for Children in Foster Care

Dave gave generously with his time, money and energy. He strongly believed in giving back to communities that support the Wendy’s business. While Dave's popularity helped sell hamburgers, he also used it to bring attention to causes and issues that were important to him, like foster care adoption.

Dave with teenager in TV commercial
Dave’s Passion for Education and Time in the Limelight

Wendy’s television commercials gave Dave a presence in millions of homes, and he used his celebrity status to help people. For 12 years, he actively campaigned to make sure kids in foster care who needed a family found permanent, loving homes. By practicing what he preached, Dave created a lasting legacy.

Remembering Dave
Remembering Dave

To those who knew him, and many who didn’t, Dave Thomas was a real-life example of how hard work, dedication and commitment can lead to success. He was also a role model for accepting nothing less than the highest quality in everything.

Famous Quotes by Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas was a man of few words, but they always had an impact on the people around him.