In the world of fast food burgers, there are three names everyone knows. McDonald’s is The King, the archetype for quick service dining, the golden-arched embodiment of franchising. All quick service restaurants, whether they like it or not, are in some ways compared to McDonald’s.
Beyond McDonald’s, there is a constant battle for the position of Second Place – sometimes literally, sometimes only figuratively – between Burger King, and Wendy’s. Over the years, their relative position in terms of popularity, profitability, and various other metrics has seemed to go back and forth. Though Burger King has consistently had more locations than Wendy’s, their stature in the public eye has often been a more competitive battle, with both sides at different times being able to claim the coveted “#2 spot”.
The Big Three
Among the “Big Three," there has never been that great a difference in what was offered on the menu. Unlike McDonald’s and Burger King, Wendy’s does not have a “signature” sandwich such as the Big Mac or the Whopper. Wendy’s did begin prioritizing a more robust offering of chicken sandwich options before its two major competitors, but that has since been equaled. The only major distinction that Wendy’s has over the other two legs of the “Big Three” stool is that it uses square patties. If you asked Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, why they used square patties, he would respond by saying, stone-faced, “Well, that’s because Dave Thomas doesn’t cut corners” before quickly chuckling and offering his trademarked smile.
Dave Thomas may have named his company after his daughter Melinda, but the Wendy’s brand was truly synonymous with Dave himself. His vision was high-quality food, made to order. He began his career as a chef in a restaurant that ultimately became a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Dave moved up within KFC, eventually working closely with Colonel Harland Sanders himself, before leaving to open his first Wendy’s restaurant in November of 1969.
During his time working with Colonel Sanders, Dave worked tirelessly to help create more brand recognition, understanding that the more the customer believed in your brand, the more loyal they would be to your business. Dave recommended that KFC trim down their menu so that the company could focus on a signature dish that would distinguish them against their competitors. He also pressed the Colonel to appear in more commercials for the brand, believing that if the consumer knew and could relate to him, they would be more likely to develop an affinity for the brand. These are lessons that Dave brought with him to Wendy’s, and are major reasons why the brand has been such a success.
By 1980 there were 2000 Wendy’s nationwide, and Wendy’s had begun to expand internationally by opening a location in Japan. Four years later the “Where’s the beef?” slogan became a national sensation, putting Wendy’s on the map in a way that they had not imagined before. As Wendy’s continued to grow both domestically and internationally, Dave’s star power as the face of the company continued to grow as well. Eventually, Dave used his money and fame to open the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which he created to find “permanent, loving homes for foster children.” As an adopted child himself, this was a cause that was near and dear to Dave’s heart.
In 2002, Dave passed away after a decade of battling Carcinoid Cancer. He left behind an incredible legacy of warmth, generosity, and hard work. Since his death, Wendy’s has continued to operate as one of the model franchise operations and remains one-third of the “Big Three” of burgers. Dave Thomas’ message was simple. He provided good old-fashioned wholesome food for good old-fashioned folks, and it has worked.
Wendy's Franchise Information
The Wendy’s brand remains incredibly strong. For that reason, Wendy’s requires $500,000 in liquid assets with $1,000,000 net worth, and the total investment lies somewhere between $2,000,000 and $3,500,000, All of that is at or near the top of the industry, which makes sense for such a strong brand. The initial franchise fee, which Wendy’s refers to as a “Technical Assistance Fee,” is $40,000, with a 20-year term, 4% Royalty Fee, and 3.5% Ad Fund fee.
- Initial Investment: $2,000,000 to $3,5000,000
- Liquid Cash Requirement: $500,000
- Net Worth Requirement: $1,000,000
- Franchise Fee: $40,000
- Royalty Fee: 4%
- Ad Fund: 3.5%