November 15, 1969 – First Wendy’s Opens
The beginning of a journey – on November 15, 1969, Dave Thomas opened his very first Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio at 257 East Broad Street. In no time, the quick-service chain became known for its square beef patties, made from fresh beef, and iconic Frosty® desserts.
First Pick-Up Window
Wendy’s introduced the first modern drive through to the world; what Dave Thomas coined the “Pick-Up Window”. This innovation was so revolutionary that customers needed instructions on how to talk through the speaker to place an order. Originally called the “drive-in window,” Dave wanted to change the name from something that could attract cruisers and joyriders.
First Canadian Restaurant Opens
Wendy’s brought the beef to Canada when it opened the first international Wendy’s restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Wendy’s Goes Public
Wendy’s had its initial public stock offering on the NASDAQ exchange, issuing one million shares of common stock at $28 per share.
First Wendy’s Commercial Aired
Lights, camera, action! Wendy’s took its advertising to the small screen, making a name as the first quick-service chain with less than 1,000 restaurants to launch a national advertising campaign.
1,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
The 1,000th Wendy’s restaurant opened in Springfield, Tennessee and broke records for being the company’s 1,000th restaurant in just 100 months.
Introducing the Salad Bar
Among all the fresh beef, Wendy’s added the salad bar to its menu to diversify the options for those who wanted to go green with their meals. Wendy’s salad bar was a hit in the 70’s and 80’s, but as Wendy’s restaurants became more operationally efficient and customers desired more portable salad offerings, salad bars were phased out in 2006.
2,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
1980 marked the milestone of 2,000 Wendy’s restaurants…and counting.
Wendy’s Joins NYSE
Wendy’s stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, using the trading symbol “WEN”.
Baked Potatoes Added to the Menu
Baked potatoes joined the menu in 1983. The Wendy’s baked potato saw success in the 80’s as the ever-memorable “hot-stuffed” and has stood the test of time as a tried and true favorite for customers seeking a lighter side or as a destination to accompany their chili.
“Where’s the Beef®?” Commercial Aired
Clara Peller became an overnight sensation when she inspected a fluffy hamburger bun that lacked in the beef department and exclaimed, “Where’s the Beef?”. The tagline became so popular that the advertisement led to a 31% boost in Wendy’s annual revenue, and even sparked a merchandise line for fans.
3,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
The French Quarter in New Orleans was the location of this milestone – the 3,000th restaurant. You can guess by now that there’s more to come.
Dave’s First TV Commercial
Dave Thomas starred in his first commercial in 1989, and quickly became a nationwide household name. After the first national campaign, Dave went on to appear in more than 800 commercials through the years.
Super Value Menu Launched
Wendy’s was the first to introduce the concept of a Super Value Menu and it took off with nine items available for 99¢ every day. The menu offerings rotated based on what customers were craving.
Grilled Chicken Sandwich Debuted
Wendy’s nutrition policy was expanding, and so was the menu. The grilled chicken sandwich made its first appearance in 1990 as a lighter, lower calorie offering for customers seeking a non-fried chicken protein option.
Wendy’s Embraces Adoption
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush asked Dave Thomas to serve as spokesperson for the national adoption initiative, “Adoption Works…For Everyone.” Wendy’s embraced adoption as its national charitable cause, and in the years since has committed millions of dollars to raise awareness for children in foster care and foster care adoption.
Fresh-Made Salads To-Go
Salad on the run, anyone? Born from Wendy’s successful and iconic salad bar, Wendy’s turned customers’ attention to new, fresh-made salads they could get to-go: Grilled Chicken, Taco Caesar, Deluxe Garden, and Side Salads were the first salad offerings featured.
Dave Thomas Established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®
Our founder, Dave Thomas, was adopted as a child, and created the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) because he believed every child deserves a permanent, loving home. The DTFA is the only public, non-profit charity in the United States that is focused only on foster care adoption.
Wendy’s 3Tour Challenge Debuts
To benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Wendy’s hosted the 3Tour Challenge – An annual golf tournament that continued through 2013, raising more than 11.6 million in net proceeds in over two decades. The 3Tour Challenge was the only professional golf tournament that professionals from the PGA, LPGA, and Champions Tour went head-to-head for the 3Tour title.
4,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
The 4,000th Wendy’s opened in Bentonville, Arkansas, and was one of 250 Wendy’s restaurants opened in 1992.
Wendy’s Turns 25
Wendy’s celebrated its milestone 25th birthday with the best present ever – all-time record systemwide sales of $4.2 billion in 1994.
Wendy’s High School Heisman® Program Kicks Off
In 1993, Dave Thomas received his high school equivalency certificate and shared with 2,500 graduating seniors that he felt his biggest mistake was not finishing high school. Created to honor those who value education, and in partnership with the Heisman Trophy Trust®, Wendy’s established the Wendy’s High School Heisman program to celebrate high-school senior athletes who went above and beyond in learning, performing, and leading on and off the field. Twenty-five years and hundreds of thousands of exceptional high school scholar-athletes later, the program honored its final class of students in December 2018.
Wendy’s Acquires Tim Hortons®
Would you like a side of donuts with your hamburger? In December 1995, Wendy’s completed its acquisition of Tim Hortons, a Canadian restaurant chain that features coffee and fresh baked goods.
Spicy Chicken Sandwich Launch
In 1995, Wendy’s was the first major fast food restaurant chain to introduce a spicy chicken sandwich to its menu. Fans loved the spicy kick of the chicken complimented by mayo, lettuce, tomato and a toasted bun so much, it was announced that it would be offered as a full-time menu option in 1996.
5,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
The 5,000th Wendy’s restaurant opened in Columbus, Ohio as a Wendy’s/Tim Hortons combination unit.
U.S. Postage Stamp Celebrates Adoption
The U.S. Postal Service released a stamp to celebrate the joys of adoption, to raise awareness about the cause, and to thank those who had opened their homes to adopt children in foster care. Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, was a participant in the official stamp dedication ceremony.
Animal Welfare Council
In 2001, Wendy’s established an auditing program to monitor, verify and evaluate proper animal handling among our U.S. and Canadian suppliers. This effort was based on extensive research conducted by experts in animal behavior science.
6,000th Wendy’s Restaurant Opens
Wendy’s took another step towards international growth when it opened the 6,000th restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. The two-story restaurant was built to hold 224 customers.
Founder Dave Thomas Passes Away
At the age of 69, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas passed away. Dave developed a passion for the quick service restaurant industry at a young age and devoted much of his life to growing the Wendy’s business and supporting foster care adoption.
Wendy’s Opens Culinary Innovation Center
Wendy’s opened its Culinary Innovation Center at its corporate headquarters, located in Dublin, Ohio. Later named the Brolick Innovation Center after former Wendy’s President & CEO Emil Brolick, the innovation center was built to provide a creative space for culinary ideas to come to life and for customers to participate in research-based taste test panels to support prospective menu items.
Halloween Coupon Books
It’s no trick that Wendy’s started offering their Halloween-themed Frosty® Coupon Books as a treat in 2003. These coupon books are now called Boo! Books™ and have raised nearly $40 million for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® is Established
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) is the signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The DTFA awards grants to adoption agencies to hire adoption professionals, who work every day to make “unadoptable” unacceptable. Since 2004, more than 8,000 children have been placed in loving homes through WWK.
Wendy’s Kids’ Meal® is Introduced
In 2004, Wendy’s rolled out kid-friendly offerings for its youngest customers called Wendy’s Kids’ Meal. At launch and for no extra charge, Mom and Dad could swap out French fries for mandarin oranges and grab some milk for their kiddos instead of a soda. In the later 2000’s, Wendy’s began to show milk and apple slices as the featured beverage and side pairing in its Kids’ Meals.
Combo Choices Announced
The new Wendy’s Combo Choices Menu proved that sides could be more than just French fries, and allowed customers to choose a baked potato, small chili, or one of two side salads instead of French fries.
Tim Hortons Goes Public
Wendy’s completed its initial public offering of Tim Hortons in March 2006, and later completed its spin-off of the Canadian restaurant chain as a separate public company in September 2006.
No More Trans Fat
Trans Fat went out of style in the North American restaurants when Wendy’s switched to a nonhydrogenated cooking oil – with zero grams of trans fat – for French fries and breaded chicken.
Wendy’s adds Vanilla Frosty
Wendy’s upped its game in the dessert department when the company expanded its iconic chocolate Frosty flavor to vanilla. Speaking of upping the game, did you know you can request a pack of pecans to add a savory twist to your Frosty? If that’s not really your thing, feel free to stick to dipping your fries in your Frosty flavor of choice.
Father’s Day Frosty Weekend
Wendy’s hosted the first Father’s Day Frosty Weekend at participating locations in the U.S. and Canada. The fundraiser ran until June 2015 and raised more than $14.3 million for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.
In 2007, Wendy’s stacked two fresh beef patties and paired it with American cheese, SIX slices of Applewood smoked bacon, and a soft bun. The iconic Baconator – the best way to eat a double bacon cheeseburger – was introduced for those Wendy’s customers who wanted even more craveable burger options.
Wendy’s and Arby’s Merge
A side of curly fries with your Baconator? In 2008, Wendy’s consolidated with Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. to form Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, Inc. and was headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
Frosty® Key Tags
In 2010, Wendy’s made giving back even sweeter when it announced that Frosty lovers could purchase a Frosty Key Tag and receive a free Jr. Frosty with any purchase for an entire year. Since 2010, the Frosty Key Tag campaign has raised more than $27 million to benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®.
Community Ambassador Grant Program
Wendy's proudly recognizes employees and all they do to make a positive impact in their communities through its Community Ambassador Grant Program. Each year, ten Wendy’s employees are rewarded for their commitment to volunteerism with a $2,500 grant to go to a community organization where they dedicate their time. Of the ten chosen, one is honored as Wendy’s Ambassador of the Year and granted an additional $10,000 for their organization.
Wendy’s raised the bar on greens once again when its salad lineup was refreshed in 2010 with Apple Pecan Chicken, BLT Cobb, Spicy Chicken Caesar, and Baja. Apple Pecan is still featured on the Fresh-Made Salads menu today.
Natural Cut Fries
In 2010, Wendy’s redesigned its classic French fries. The new Natural Cut French fries, made from 100% Russet potatoes and sprinkled with the perfect amount of sea salt, were made for those loyal Wendy’s fans who preferred textured and tasteful fries over soggy fried potato sticks.
Wendy’s Sells off Arby’s and Moves Back to Ohio Headquarters
After nearly three years of a corporate shared services division in Atlanta, Wendy’s and Arby’s decided to go their separate ways in 2011. Arby’s was purchased by private equity group Roark Capital and Wendy’s became The Wendy’s Company, and announced its move back to Dublin, Ohio for all Company functions.
Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy® Cheeseburgers
After devoting more than two years to creating its best cheeseburger line yet, Wendy’s released Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Cheeseburgers. Named after its founder, this quarter pound, fresh, square beef patty was accompanied by a buttered and toasted bun, in addition to fresh toppings. A hotter and juicier product that made mouths water – Dave would be proud.
Wendy’s is Listed on NASDAQ
The Wendy’s Company transferred its common stock listing from the New York Stock Exchange to NASDAQ, where it continues to trade today under the trading symbol “WEN”.
Son of Baconator®
The small but mighty Son of Baconator was launched in 2012 to give Baconator fans a chance to go big or go small. The Son of Baconator has four pieces of bacon and smaller fresh beef patties, but it’s anything but “junior”.
Launch of Wendy’s Mobile App
Wendy’s leaped into the hands of consumers with the launch of its mobile app. Originally designed to provide food nutrition and restaurant location information, the app has evolved over the years to accommodate convenient mobile ordering, payment and delivery to meet the demands of today’s on-the-go consumers.
Wendy’s Brand Transformation
Wendy’s restaurants received a makeover as it kicked off a global transformation, referred to as Image Activation, to contemporize the brand and improve all touchpoints of the customer experience. Bold new restaurant designs, product innovation, and engaging advertising and digital media were a few changes that customers began to see.
The Thomas Building and Conference Center (TCC) was constructed in 2012 on the campus of the Wendy’s Restaurant Support Center in Dublin, Ohio. The TCC was awarded the LEED Silver certification in Spring 2013 for designing and constructing a building to sustainable standards including energy efficient lighting and HVAC.
Frosty 5K Run for Adoption
On your mark, get set, go! In 2013, Wendy’s introduced the Frosty 5K Run for Adoption, an event to raise funds and awareness for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. So far, this event has raised more than $360,000. All participants receive a Frosty at the finish line – it’s a win-win.
Wendy’s New Brand Logo
As part of the brand transformation, Wendy’s upgraded the face of the brand and unveiled a new and contemporary logo to keep up with the rest of its evolving brand image. This was the first major logo change in 30 years.
Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger
In 2013, Wendy’s combined pretzel, bacon, and cheeseburger, ultimately creating one of the most popular Wendy’s limited time offers! So popular, in fact, the cheeseburger made a temporary return to the menu in 2014. Social media buzz confirmed that the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and Wendy’s fans had a bit of a love affair going on, so Wendy’s turned those online comments into love songs. The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs were such a hit, they went on to win a Cannes Lions Award.
Stock of the Year
Yahoo! Finance named Wendy’s as its chain restaurant Stock of the Year due to menu creativity, Image Activation initiatives, and rewards by shareholders.
Flagship Restaurant Opens Near Wendy’s Headquarters
Wendy’s opened its flagship restaurant near the Dublin, Ohio headquarters on December 17, 2013. The flagship featured the new image activated design and a community room showcasing Dave Thomas and Wendy’s memorabilia in homage to the Company’s history.
National Cause Marketing Campaign Launches
In 2014, Wendy’s announced a year-long marketing program to tell the story of foster care adoption. Components of the campaign were carefully crafted to show that the everyday childhood moments most people take for granted – like hugging Mom before bedtime or playing outside with Dad – might not be a reality for children waiting in foster care.
The Dave Golf Tournament
Named after Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, The Dave Golf Tournament was created to replace the 3Tour Challenge as the company’s annual golf fundraiser. Combined, the 3Tour Challenge and The Dave Golf Tournament have raised almost $19 million to date. The signature event offers an annual reunion for the entire Wendy’s family and raises funds for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Wendy’s Kids’ Meal® focused on Creative Play
Wendy’s recognized the importance of inspiring creativity in young minds when the Company made the switch from licensed toy products in Wendy’s Kids’ Meals to more fun, interactive activities. The Creative Play Platform served to encourage children to think outside the box and use the Kids’ Meal games for more than just a one-time car toy.
4 for $4
In 2015, meal deals at Wendy’s were changed forever when the 4 for $4 was introduced. A combo meal deal that allows hungry customers to have a hamburger, four-piece chicken nuggets, small fries and a small drink…all for only $4. The 4 for $4 later expanded to include a larger variety of value menu options.
Better Buildings Challenge
In 2016, Wendy’s announced its participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge. Among the first restaurants to join the Challenge, Wendy’s committed to reducing energy consumption in U.S. company-operated restaurants by 20 percent per transaction by 2025.
Launch of The Square Deal Blog™
In 2016, Wendy’s broadened communications with customers when it introduced its external blog, The Square Deal. Since its launch, the blog shares company views on food, quality, culture, sustainability and support for foster care adoption.
First Top 200 General Manager Conference
The top 200 General Managers in the Wendy’s family were recognized at the Dublin, Ohio headquarters. The individuals honored make up the top 3% of the Wendy’s system around the world, and are valued team members who excel in leadership, performance, and dedication to the Wendy’s brand.
Taco Salad Comeback
Fans got a taste of nostalgia when Wendy’s brought a classic back to its menu. The Taco Salad returned just as it was in the 90’s, topped with the Wendy’s signature chili, hand-diced tomatoes and shredded cheddar that made it a hit in the first place. The tortilla chips, sour cream and salsa come on the side and allow customers to load it up as they please.
Wendy’s Investment in Chicken Quality
Wendy’s isn’t chicken when it comes to improving chicken quality. In February 2017, Wendy’s made a $30 million investment to enhance the quality of the chicken it serves. The Company switched up cooking procedures and made a move to use smaller birds, so customers can enjoy more of what they love with some seriously fresh, juicy chicken that has a new and improved taste.
Self-order Kiosk Implementation
Ordering your favorite Wendy’s staples just became easier. Wendy’s announced its plans to add easy-to-use, self-order kiosks to enhance the customer experience and the convenience of ordering in the restaurant.
In 2017, Carter Wilkerson broke the internet with one simple tweet – “Yo @Wendy’s how many retweets for a year of chicken nuggets?” While he didn’t reach the Wendy’s requested retweet amount of 18 million, Carter quickly bypassed the Twitter record of most retweeted tweet on the internet and was rewarded with his year’s supply of chicken nuggets. It didn’t stop there – Carter appeared on The Ellen Show, donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®, and Nuggs for Carter won the Best Influencer Campaign title from the PRWeek Global Awards and a Cannes Silver Lion Award.
DTFA 25th Anniversary
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption turned 25 and celebrated their milestones along the way – in 25 years, they co-founded National Adoption Day, introduced their signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, and helped find thousands of permanent, loving homes for children in foster care.
Wendy’s Wins IFA’s Enduring Impact Award
The International Franchise Association recognized The Wendy’s Company as a Gold Winner of the Enduring Impact Award for the charitable work done for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the impact that the work has on children in foster care across the nation.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids National Scaling
In 2017, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption announced that their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® program will be scaled up in key states, promising to dramatically change the lives of tens of thousands of children in foster care over the next 12 years.
Many Wendy’s customers were saved from spending time in traffic when the Company announced its move to delivery via a partnership with DoorDash, the technology company that allows customers to order their favorite local foods right to their door.
Launch of WeCare
Wendy’s is a family, and family takes care of each other. Wendy’s launched the WeCare Fund in 2017 to provide financial assistance to employees who qualify for short-term assistance due to federally and state-declared natural disasters.
500th International Restaurant
The Wendy’s Family continued to grow around the world as the company opened its 500th international restaurant in Guatemala City, Guatemala. In 2017 and 2018, Wendy’s welcomed nearly 100 net new international restaurants and made great strides in development plans to Delight Every Customer on an international level.
We Beefin’? Mixtape
In 2018, Wendy’s dropped the hottest mixtape of the year. Featuring smash hits like “Twitter Fingers” and “Rest in Grease”, We Beefin’ showed everyone else who’s the boss of the beef. The creative mixtape went on to win many awards including a Cannes Gold Lion.
Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes
Wendy’s took its next step in its commitment to quality when it was announced that all Wendy’s tomatoes will be sourced from indoor greenhouse farms. The innovative change further strengthens the Company’s commitment to responsible sourcing practices by providing safer, indoor working conditions, shelter from the elements and environmental contaminants, reduced water and land use burdens, and a significantly reduced need for chemical pesticides. It also brings superior quality and flavor to the red wheel that tops the classic Wendy’s hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and salads.
Wendy’s Exceeds $200 Million Raised for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Since its founding in 1992, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has been Wendy’s charity of choice. Through various programs supported by the Company, franchise organizations, suppliers, and customers, Wendy’s has raised more than $200 million for the Foundation and its Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
Announcement of Squarely Sustainability Approach
To be a better and more sustainable, environmentally conscious brand, Wendy’s launched Squarely Sustainable, a four-pronged approach to sustainability. With this approach, Wendy’s aims to: use less materials to minimize waste, use better and seek certified sustainable materials where possible, spark action by identifying consumer-facing actions that can drive change, and engage partners to work with others to find solutions to important issues.
Introducing the Made to Crave Menu
Wendy’s introduced Made to Crave Hamburgers: a new line within Wendy’s core menu that unlocks a fresh world of hamburgers packed with craveable, mind blowing, unforgettable flavors. Later that year, Wendy’s introduced Made to Crave Chicken: a permanent excuse to continue experimenting with the latest trends to bring new and exciting flavors to chicken sandwich lovers.
Wendy’s Wins the Cannes Lion Social & Influencer Grand Prix
Wendy’s created a digital ‘Wendy’ to hit the multiplayer battle royale videogame “Fortnite.” This character ignored all the other players, usually the main targets, and went for freezers instead. Making a statement that Wendy’s uses fresh beef, the Company received the Social & Influencer Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Wendy’s Celebrates 50 Years
Every November, the Wendy’s Family comes together to celebrate and honor our founder, Dave Thomas, and the founding of the first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969. The 2019 celebration was more special than ever as we celebrated 50 years of our beloved and iconic brand.
Wendy's Launches Breakfast
In March of 2020, Wendy's launched breakfast nationally across the US. With the tag line “You Up for This?™” Wendy’s created hype all over America for the iconic brand to enter the #breakfastwars and be the breakfast that eats other breakfasts for breakfast.
‘Wendy’s Rewards’ Launches in the U.S.
Wendy’s Rewards™ is fantastically simple: you get rewarded for something you’re already doing, ordering Wendy’s®. We designed this program in partnership with our fans and we made sure it hit all the right notes. All you need to do create a My Wendy’s™ account to start earning points. Then, those points add up to great rewards!
Greenhouse-grown Lettuce in Canada
As part of our ongoing commitment to serve the best and most fresh, Wendy’s expanded our greenhouse-grown fresh produce portfolio by introducing 100% Canadian greenhouse-grown lettuce in our salads and sandwiches throughout Canada.
New Community Giving Program
Through this program, Company employees can request financial support for a charitable organization throughout Wendy’s global restaurant footprint that align with our core categories of charitable support: foster care adoption, hunger and food integrity, youth and families, and vibrant communities.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program Reaches 10,000 Adoptions
Over time and in partnership with Wendy’s, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® has leveraged the resources, the energy, and the expertise to reach a significant milestone ― 10,000 children are now with a safe, loving, and permanent family through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® program!