“His adoptive family must have instilled great values in him.”
Unfortunately his adoptive mother died when Dave was five. His father traveled the country looking for work, uprooting Dave every two or three years. Dave gave credit to his maternal grandmother for teaching him to treat others well and with respect.
At age fifteen Dave was in Fort Wayne, IN when his father decided to move again. Dave decided to stay, quit school and keep working at the restaurant he was employed at.
He was there when Colonel Harlan Sanders came through driving a white Cadillac convertible trying to sell his KFC franchises to established restaurants. The family he was working for eventually bought in and ended up owning a number of franchises.
Around that time young Dave gave the older Sanders some great advice: simplify the menu, have a signature item and do your own commercials.
In the mid 60’s Dave was sent to Columbus, Ohio to straighten out four KFC locations. By the late 60’s they were booming and Dave sold his interest in them back to Sanders. At a nice profit.
He was one of the investors that founded Arthur Treachers but left that in 1968 to start Wendy’s.
He started a burger business because Dave Thomas really, really liked hamburgers and named the business after his oldest daughter Melinda Lou Thomas.
No, Dave never had a daughter named Wendy. The name came about because when the little Melinda Lou tried to say her name it came out Wenda. Dave figured Wendy sounded better for a burger business and the rest is history.
Dave did finally get his high school diploma in 1993 when he took and passed the GED exam.
Dave Thomas and Harlan Sanders were friends and worked closely together at KFC but were polar opposites.
If Sanders caught a franchisee not adhering to KFC standards he would often cuss like a sailor, personally remove all franchise equipment and throw it in his Cadillac.
Dave was a mellower type more likely to work with the wayward franchisees to correct their problems.
The Dave Thomas we saw in his Wendy’s commercials was the real guy.
I read Dave's autobiography "Well Done" many years ago.
I don't remember that part about his adoptive mother dying.
The book is IMHO a must read.
Dave Thomas lived and breathed the American Dream.
He was educated at the foot of the master franchiser, Col. Sanders.
He took the Colonel's advice, and even improved on it.
One anecdote that stuck with me was when Dave was inspecting some Wendy's restaurant, and some smart-ass wasn't cooking the burgers right.
He said to Dave, OK, Mr. big shot, how DO you do it? Show me!
Thomas designed his burgers to be square, so that they would fit on the grill.
Thomas showed the wise guy how he wanted it done, and it was correct.
I'll bet that the smart alec did it "right" after that.
The man lived up to his word, and showed it.