Wendy’s is a fast food chain that has reliably built its reputation on fresh, never frozen beef. While you might’ve seen recent headlines about the ruthlessness of their social media team on Twitter, it’s still an undisputed contender in the search for the best fast food chain in the country. There’s just something about those square patties and those delicious Frosty’s. Don’t act like you never dipped your French fries into it, either.
Here are 10 facts about Wendy’s any true Frosty-lover should know.
1. The Frosty has been around since day one. Wendy’s famous Frosty – that cool, creamy, soft-serve confection – has been on the menu since Thomas’ first restaurant, along with hamburgers, french fries, chili and fountain drinks.
It cost 35 cents. Today, the chain serves about 300 million Frostys each year. However…
2. The Frosty isn’t all chocolate. That’s right. Believe it or not, the classic Frosty is actually a mix of chocolate and vanilla, a “cross between a milk shake and a soft-serve ice cream.” Thomas felt an all-chocolate dessert would be too overpowering to enjoy alongside a burger and fries.
In the early days, Thomas had only a single Frosty machine, and would combine the chocolate and vanilla mix himself. The Vanilla Frosty became available to the public in 2006.
3. It’s named after Dave Thomas’ daughter … Melinda. Most people know that restaurant founder Dave Thomas named Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers after his daughter… but did you know her name wasn’t Wendy – it was Melinda Lou.
As many children do, young Melinda Lou had difficulty pronouncing L and R sounds, and pronounced her own name “Wenda,” which stuck as a nickname and was soon adopted, with a slight change, by her father’s restaurant. Melinda Lou’s likeness was also used for the brand’s famous pig-tailed girl logo.
4. Dave Thomas was adopted – and became a lifelong adoption advocate. Dave Thomas was adopted at just six weeks old, and never met his biological family.
Though his childhood was difficult – his adoptive mother died when he was 7 years old, and his adoptive father remarried three times and moved Dave between 12 different cities before he was 15 years old – Thomas was a strong adoption advocate. In 1992 he founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, hoping to make a difference.
5. Thomas was a high-school dropout. At age 15, Dave Thomas dropped out of high school to work full-time at the Hobby House Restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He considered this his biggest mistake and, in 1993, finished school and obtained his GED.
He went on to become a vocal education advocate and founded the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, which provides young adults with GED classes.
6. … who trained with “The Colonel” Harland Sanders himself. Dave Thomas spent a few years in the late 1950s and early ’60s under the employ of KFC (then Kentucky Fried Chicken) in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In 1962, Colonel Harland Sanders dispatched Thomas to Columbus, Ohio, to do what he could to save a handful of struggling franchises, in exchange for a 45 percent ownership in those locations’ profits. Thomas cut back the restaurant’s extensive menu to a few “signature” items – and introduced the chicken giant’s trademark red-and-white bucket.
7. The “signature” square patties aren’t unique. Wendy’s signature “fresh, never frozen” square patties are something of a calling card for the fast-food chain, but they’re not all to its own.
Throughout his childhood, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was a regular customer at Kalamazoo, Michigan burger join Kewpee Hamburgers, whose “old-fashioned” hamburgers, square patties and all, have been served since 1923.
8. Wendy’s lays claim to the first drive-thru window. In November 1970, Thomas opened a second Wendy’s location in Columbus, Ohio.
The new location offered the same menu items up with an industry innovation – a drive-up “pick-up” window, complete with a second grill for serving customers on the go. Fast food would never be the same.
9. … and first fast-food salad bar. Nine years after introducing the drive-thru window to the fast-food world, Wendy’s once again made history when it added salad bars to its menu in location across the country in 1979, the first step in its “menu diversification” program.
The restaurant would begin serving fresh salads to-go in 1992 – again well ahead of the industry curve.
10. Its Japanese menu packs more than a few surprises. When Wendy’s relaunched in Japan in 2011, they did so with a few classic menu items – burgers, french fries, chili and, of course, the Frosty – along with a few surprising items exclusive to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Among these are the Avocado Wasabi Hamburger, the Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken Sandwich and the Foie Gras Burger, which retails for about $17.