Wendy's Founder Regretted Naming the Restaurant After His Daughter—Here's Why
According to a new interview on the Wendy’s blog, before the company's founder, Dave Thomas, died, he apologized for naming the restaurant after the real-life Wendy: his daughter.
"Before my dad left us, we had a long conversation about him naming the restaurant Wendy’s," the real-life Wendy (whose name is Wendy Thomas-Morse) said. "It was the first time we’d ever had this conversation. He said, 'You know what? I’m sorry.' I asked him what he meant. He explained, 'I should’ve just named it after myself, because it put a lot of pressure on you.'"
Thomas founded Wendy’s in 1969, and when it came time to name the famous chain, he looked to his family for inspiration. His daughters lined up in pigtails, and, camera in hand, Thomas snapped a few photos. Melinda Lou—nicknamed “Wenda” by her four siblings, which morphed into "Wendy" for the restaurant—was red-headed and young. She looked the part.
“Yep, it’s going to be Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers,” Thomas said, according to the newly-released interview celebrating the chain’s 50th anniversary.
Roughly 6,500 storefronts worldwide later, the signature freckled cartoon has become a universally adored character.
"He wanted a character because he worked for the Colonel at Kentucky Fried Chicken and knew how much that persona mattered,” said Thomas-Morse.
While Thomas-Morse acknowledges that the pressure was real, she doesn’t wish the chain was called “Dave’s.” Sure, her parents dragged her to long press events in a homemade blue-and-white dress with her hair in uncomfortable pigtails (which Thomas-Morse said were held up by pipe-cleaners). But she got to take the first bite of the giant hamburgers made for each press event, which, as you can imagine, was exciting for the 8-year-old.
Today, at 58, she’s still excited. But now, it’s all about the legacy.
“I love this brand. I will always love this brand, but not because my name is on the buildings. I love our products. I love our hamburgers. I just love everything. Why wouldn’t I? It’s our business. Our family business. For me, Wendy’s is my family,” she said.