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10 Things You Didn't Know About Wendy's

Wendy's is a fast food chain that has reliably built its reputation on fresh, never frozen beef. While you might've seen headlines about the ruthlessness of Wendy's social media team on Twitter, it's still a fact that it's one of the best-loved fast food restaurants in the United States. There's just something about Wendy's square patties and those delicious Frostys. Don't act like you never dipped your French fries into those Frostys, either.

We're fans of Wendy's restaurants, too. We've told you about the secret menu and about their excellent value menu, so we thought we'd share some little known facts about Wendy's.

Here are 10 Wendy's facts any true Frosty-lover should know.

1. Wendy's Frosty has been around since day one

It's a fact that Wendy's famous Frosty - that cool, creamy, soft-serve confection - has been on the Wendy's menu since Dave Thomas' first restaurant, along with hamburgers, french fries, chili and fountain drinks. It cost 35 cents then. 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. The burger chain is named after Dave Thomas' daughter... Melinda

Most people know that restaurant founder Dave Thomas named Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers after his daughter... but the fact is that 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, 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. He trained with Harland "The Colonel" Sanders

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

It's a fact that Wendy's signature "fresh, never frozen" square patties are something of a calling card for the restaurant chain, but they're not the only burger joint with square burgers. 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

The first Wendy's restaurant opened in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio. In November 1970, Thomas opened a second Wendy's location in Columbus, but the fact is that this Wendy's had something different. 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. Wendy's 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.

This article was originally published on January 10, 2017.

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