The untold truth of Wendy's

Wendy's has more than 6,500 international locations, making it the third-largest burger franchise in the world. Founded in 1969, today the company is worth billions and has become beloved by people all over the world who love their burgers and fries. The history behind the company's success is fascinating and inspiring, and will impress anyone — Wendy's fan or not. In fact, the story is compelling enough that it just might convince Wendy's haters to try a Dave's Double.

There's a "secret" menu

The special menu at Wendy's isn't exactly a well-kept secret, which is great for customers who want to try something a little out of the ordinary. If you're tired of chicken nuggets, check out some of the offerings on the secret menu. There's a one-pound Meat Cube burger and a Barnyard Burger which has beef, bacon, and chicken. A lot of secret menu items really pack on the protein, so for a lighter option, try the Valley Crispy Chicken Club sandwich.

You might want to skip the chili

Wendy's has a lot of delicious menu items to choose from, which should make it easy to avoid the chili. While a hot bowl of it might be tempting on a cold day, you might rethink that option when you hear the secret ingredient lurking in the pot. Wendy's chili contains silicon dioxide. The substance is meant to keep the chili from clumping as it simmers away on the stove.

That doesn't sound too bad, until you consider the fact that the chemical compound is often present in nature as sand. That's right, if you're eating Wendy's chili, it's coming with a big old helping of sand. While you might like the feeling of sand between your toes, you probably don't want a mouthful of it.

The Frosty has been around since day one

There are plenty of classic menu items to choose from at Wendy's, like the tried-and-true Frosty. This bad boy has been around since Wendy's was first founded in 1969. According to the official Wendy's website, founder Dave Thomas "wanted a dessert on the menu that was so thick you had to eat it with a spoon" and so the Frosty, "a cross between a milk shake and soft-serve ice cream" was born.

To keep the chocolate flavor from being too overwhelming, Thomas added vanilla to the recipe. The result was a sweet, chocolate treat that perfectly complemented a hamburger. While this chocolate/vanilla combo was the default Frosty flavor for decades, the vanilla Frosty was launched in 2006.

The restaurant grew much larger than founder Dave Thomas anticipated

When Wendy's was launched in 1969, there were just five items on the menu. Thomas didn't have great ambitions for the first restaurant he opened in Columbus, Ohio. He simply wanted a small, local chain where his kids could work in the summer. 

Despite his modest expectations, Thomas soon found himself with a successful business. He opened a second Wendy's after a year and by 1974, sales totaled at nearly $25 million. By the end of 1976, not even a decade since the company was started, there were 500 Wendy's locations.

The real-life Wendy was teased for being the face of the restaurant

Dave Thomas had four kids and knew one of them would become the face of the restaurant, but he wasn't playing favorites when he picked 8-year-old Melinda, nicknamed Wendy. "Dad wanted a name that was easy to remember, and he wanted an all-American mug," she told People in 1990. "I was redheaded and had freckles and buckteeth, so I got elected."

Wendy admitted to often being embarrassed because of her famous face."There was always teasing," she said. "It just goes with the territory."

The logo has no secrets under its collar

A lot of people seem to think the modern Wendy's logo, redesigned in 2013, has a secret message hidden in it. In the picture, it looks like the word "mom" is hidden in Wendy's collar. While some thought this was a reference to a home-cooked meal just like Mom would make, it turns out the "hidden message" was just a coincidence.

"We are aware of this and find it interesting that it appears our Wendy cameo has 'mom' on her ruffled collar. We can assure you it was unintentional," said a spokesperson for the company.

Dave Thomas was a high school dropout

The success of Wendy's is even more impressive when you look at the history of Dave Thomas. A high school dropout, Thomas served in the Korean War before becoming a cook. He went on to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken, where he came up with the idea for the KFC chicken bucket. After climbing through the ranks, Thomas left the company in 1969 and founded Wendy's. The rest is history.

After Wendy's became a success, a 61-year-old Thomas went back to school to earn his GED. He then founded the Dave Thomas Education Center to help other high school dropouts earn their GEDs, as well.

Wendy's was the first restaurant to launch a value menu

Many fast food restaurants these days have value menus which offer items at a lower price. Wendy's was the first to utilize this now-popular concept, launching the first value menu in 1989, nearly a decade before Burger King got on the value menu train in 1998.

Denny Lynch, the senior VP of communications for Wendy's, explained why the company decided to offer menu items at a discounted price. "At that time, all of the hamburger chains were going after each other and it escalated to the point where we were seeing 99 cent Whoppers and Big Macs," he said. "These prices were on permanent signage, they weren't being done as a limited-time promotion.  From (Wendy's) perspective, the market share battles were so intense that chains were discounting their flagship items."

To compete with other restaurants lowering prices on key menu items, the Wendy's value menu was created. "We had the idea of rather than selling one of our big items at 99 cents, creating a whole menu with 99-cent items," said Lynch. "We wanted our customers to be able to make a full meal with these lower-priced items."

There's a good reason the burger patties are square

Wendy's is noted for the unusual shape of its hamburger patties. There's a good reason the patties are square instead of round. Thomas got the idea for the square patties from a Michigan restaurant called Kewpee Burger which served square-shaped patties. Thomas decided to incorporate these patties so customers could easily see the freshness of the meat. The corners of the square patties stick out past the circular bun, making it easy to see the juiciness of the meat.

"Where's the beef" lady was fired

Wendy's launched a series of memorable commercials in the 1980s featuring a woman whose catch phrase "Where's the beef?" would become famous. The commercials were so successful that Wendy's become synonymous with the "where's the beef" lady. The actress, Clara Peller, would only star in 10 commercials despite her popularity. She was fired in 1985 for starring in a spaghetti sauce commercial for Campbell Soup.

In the commercial, Peller looked at spaghetti sauce and announced that she had found the beef, angering Wendy's. A spokesperson for Wendy's said, "The commercial infers that Clara found the beef at somewhere other than Wendy`s restaurants. Unfortunately, Clara's appearance in the ads makes it extremely difficult for her to serve as a credible spokesperson for our products."

The company can get pretty sassy on social media

Wendy's has no qualms about getting sassy when someone has beef with them. In 2017, the company proved it knows its way around social media when a Twitter user accused them of using frozen beef. User @NHRide scoffed at the claim that Wendy's never freezes their beef, asking "so you deliver it raw on a hot truck?"

Wendy's clapped back at the rude comments after the user claimed McDonald's was better. "You don't have to bring them into this just because you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there," they tweeted. Wendy's wit proved to be too much for @NHRide who deleted their account shortly after being called out.

Only a few locations serve breakfast

While Wendy's is one of the most successful franchise companies in the world, they have stuck to serving lunch and dinner unlike competitors Burger King and McDonald's who both have breakfast menus. Wendy's has experimented with breakfast menus in the past, but never experienced enough success to launch a permanent, nationwide breakfast menu.

"We have tested breakfast many times over the years and we feel, as virtually the only large national chain that hasn't gotten into breakfast, it's very difficult to enter that space today and commit the kind of marketing resources that we feel would be necessary to really entrench ourselves successfully," CEO Emil Brolick told Bloomberg. While the restaurant does have a limited breakfast menu, it's only served in select locations.