Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From Rags to Riches- Wendy's Restaurant

Dave Thomas had a rough life. Born in 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he was adopted at the age of 6 weeks into the home of a loving couple, Rex and Auleva Thomas. Dave's unwed mother did the only thing she could do, give him up to a two parent family who would love and cherish him in the way that she herself, couldn't. All appeared to be wonderful until, at the age of five, Dave's adoptive mother passed away, of rheumatic fever. Dave spent the remainder of his childhood, with his adoptive father as they moved from place to place, searching for employment. In his troubled childhood, there was one bright joy in his life. His love of visiting family restuarants. He loved to sit and watch as families interacted with each other, their happy laughter filling the room. Right then and there, at the age of eight, he knew what he was going to do when he grew up. He was going to own his own business; opening a family restaurant. He was a hard worker from childhood. At the tender age of twelve he began delivering groceries for those in need. But his employer realized he wasn't 16 yet and fired him. He was fired yet again as a soda jerk at Walgreens when they too came to this understanding. Determined not to quit, Dave pursued employment with The Regas Restaurant at the age of thirteen. This is when he gained knowledge of his adoption from 'Grandma Minnie', his maternal grandmother. Irate, confused and hurt, he trusted no one, with the exception of his grandmother, and threw himself into schoolwork during the day and in the evenings, put in a grueling twelve hours work at the restaurant. When he turned fifteen, his dad moved yet again, this time to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Here Dave was employed at the Hobby House Restaurant and when his family picked up and moved yet again, he informed his dad that he was staying put. Living alone in a room at the YMCA, he worked long hours but he was determined to make it. He quit high school in order to work full time and at the age of eighteen, joined up with the Army. After he had served his time, he went back to work at Hobby House, where me met a beautiful waitress; Lorraine. At the age of twenty-two, he asked for her hand. They were married in 1954.
Two years later, Dave and his boss, Phil Clauss decided to open a business together. The Ranch House Restaurant. It was there that Dave met Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of the famous mouth-watering Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sanders became of on the greatest influences in young Dave's life. Clauss managed to purchase a franchise off of Sanders and were successful in adding chicken to their menu. In 1962, Clauss came to Dave with a proposition he couldn't turn down. If Dave Thomas could manage to miracously bring KFC out of their financial pit, he would in turn give Dave an astonishing cut- 45% of his business! Dave loved a good challenge and immediatly set out to meet his goal. His techniques changed. He began to reduce the extensive menu to include only a few sought after items, those mainly to be chicken. He also began to advertise quite heavily.
The four restaurants began to thrive, even to the point that Dave was able to open another 4 restuarants. In 1968, at the age of 35, Dave became a millionaire. Clauss no longer needed Dave to get KFC on their feet and sold the restaurants back to corporate, giving them a whopping one million dollars in sale. It took twelve months, but Dave's childhood dream came true when he opened his very own Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburger Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He named his restuarant after his adorable baby girl, Melinda Lou, her nickname, "Wendy"
In 1982, Thomas became a regular household name, when he began advertising via the television.
"As long as it works, I'll continue to do the commercials," Thomas said. "When it's not working any longer, then I'm history." January 2, 2002 became a very sad day for America. At the age of 68, Dave Thomas died, after battling liver cancer for over ten years. He passed away in his Ft. Lauderdale home at the presence of his private physician. But his legacy still lives on. "Dave was our patriarch, a great, big lovable man," mourned Jack Schuessler, chairman and CEO of Wendy's International Inc. "Although Dave was widely popular, he was never very comfortable as a celebrity. He kept reminding us he was simply a hamburger cook." Today, Wendy's had grown into more than five thousand restaurants in the United States and 34 countries, with world-wide sales more than $7 billion! In addition to Thomas' success as a businessmen, he also founded many charities, one of those being the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. With his unselfish help, there is more awareness now for the 134,000 foster children who are available for adoption. He has also helped to make adopting a child much more affordable. If you think of "Dave Thomas", success should come to mind.


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