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 at Wendy's

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.

The Wendy's 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.

Wendy's grew much larger than founder Dave Thomas anticipated

When Wendy's was launched in 1969, there were just five items on the menu. Dave 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 Wendy 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.

Wendy's founder 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 at Wendy's 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.

The Wendy's "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."

Wendy's 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.

Why Wendy's is the only chain serving baked potatoes

The simple yet delicious baked potato is such a staple of Wendy's menu, it's impossible to imagine the fast food favorite not serving them. But, have you ever wondered why they started in the first place, and why no other fast food joint has picked up on the popularity of this hearty — and relatively healthy — menu item?

First, let's talk about why they make them. 

According to Lori Estrada, Wendy's vice president of culinary innovation (via Thillist), Wendy's baked potato was basically developed as a healthy menu option. Restaurants are making headlines in the 21st century for their moves toward offering customers healthier options with less fat, calories, and artificial nastiness, but Wendy's was overhauling their menu in the early 1980s with that same goal in mind.

Estrada says during the 80s, health-conscious individuals were changing the way they ate. America was kicking off an obsession with low-fat diets, and NPR says it all started in 1976. During the 1960s and 1970s, eight US Senators died of heart disease-related causes while in office, and Senate historian Don Ritchie puts it this way, "When you have colleagues who die prematurely, that's sort of a wake-up call."

South Dakota's Senator George McGovern called for a hearing on the links between what we eat and our overall health, and testimony from a Harvard professor and "longevity guru" Nathan Pritikin fueled the establishment of dietary guidelines for concerned Americans.

First and foremost, Americans were now being told that they needed to get fat out of their diet. Instead, the thinking went, an ideal diet should be high in carbs. That was supposed to be things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains... and that brings us back to Wendy's iconic 'tater.

Wendy's wanted to come up with a fat-free alternative for people looking to get healthier, because when the naturally fat-free potato was turned into fries, they lost their health-food aura. Baked, though, they were delicious and perfect for anyone looking to grab a fast and filling lunch while still following the guidelines everyone thought was going to help keep heart disease at bay. 

And they're still pretty healthy. Wendy's basic baked potato is only 270 calories, with the other more toppings-heavy options clocking in at between 310 and 460 calories. That's not bad, especially when you consider they're big enough to be an entire meal. Opt for the chili cheese baked potato and you're getting 11 grams of fat, but that sour cream and chive baked potato has just a tiny 2.5 grams. In comparison, a medium order of fries has 420 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Wendy's debuted their baked potatoes in 1983 and today, they sell an average of one million a week. That's a shocking amount of spuds.

If they're so popular, you have to wonder, why haven't more fast food restaurants hopped on the bandwagon? Arby's is the only one to come close to catching on, offering a baked potato in their Canadian restaurants, and a handful of American locations.

Estrada describes putting baked potatoes on the menu as a "logistical nightmare" for any restaurant, especially considering they do it the hard way: wrapped in foil and baked in the oven for an hour. When they introduced them, they had to outfit every single store with new convection ovens, and as you can imagine, that was no small or cheap upgrade. Even now, Estrada says, "It's a challenge, operationally, to be able to serve them, and have them ready for every customer who comes through our doors."

That's why she suspects no one else has made the commitment like Wendy's has... and they haven't just committed to the baked potato, they've owned it. 

Here's a little tip from Estrada that most people might not know. Those different types of baked potatoes on the menu aren't the only ones you can get. She says customers can ask for absolutely anything they normally put on burgers or fries to be put on a baked potato, and they'll do it. That even includes special, limited-time sauces typically found on their limited-time burgers... and that puts a whole new perspective on lunchtime, doesn't it?

Ironically — and sadly — we now know the low-fat diet of the 1980s and 90s didn't work. When fat became the enemy and carbs became America's go-to food, the average person was suddenly adding something else to their diets: refined carbohydrates and added sugar. We learned how to eat differently, but now, that's been linked to today's rising problems of obesity and diabetes.

Fortunately, Wendy's baked potato is still high on the list of healthy-ish options when it comes to grabbing some fast food for lunch. "These baked potatoes are full of fiber, low in fat, have a great mineral content... they can still be a healthy vehicle for toppings, as they always were," Estrada told Thrillist.

They're delicious, too — so this is one choice you can make that's fairly guilt-free. Let's be honest: we can all appreciate that.