How Kewpee Burger Became The Inspiration For Wendy's Hamburgers

Home of Baconators, square hamburgers, and a red-haired mascot, Wendy's is one of the many popular players in the high-paced world of fast-food burgers and fries. Founded by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, back in 1969, Wendy's has attained wide popularity, from the chain's chili and Frostys to even its Twitter account. As is with every success story, Wendy's stands on the shoulders of another legend: one known as Kewpee Burgers.

You're forgiven if you've never heard of Kewpee Burgers. You may have heard of Kewpie dolls – -those little cherub-like dolls you'd see in an antique store or your grandparent's house (per The Spruce Crafts) — but you've probably never heard of a hamburger stand named after the dolls. Kewpee Burgers restaurants are something along the lines of a legend in Ohio since the company's three remaining locations can only be found in and around the area of Lima (per Only in Your State). Having begun slinging burgers in 1928, the small restaurant has found a spot in fast food history as one of the nation's oldest operating fast-food joints. But what exactly does Kewpee Burgers have to do with Dave Thomas and the founding of Wendy's?

Dave Thomas used to eat a Kalamazoo Kewpee's

Dave Thomas grew up near Kalamazoo, Michigan, presumably spending his days as any boy would — playing with friends, going to school, and most importantly, going to the local hamburger places for a bite to eat. One of these places Thomas would frequent, according to The Daily Meal, is Kewpee Hamburgers. This was back in the day, before Kewpee shrunk down to only a few select stores around the Lima area. What was unique about Kewpee, aside from the use of the similarly named doll as a mascot, was that its hamburgers were square — just as Wendy's burgers are today.

According to Atlas Obscura, legend has it that Thomas loved the "old-fashioned" hamburgers and milkshakes so much that it inspired him to go into the hamburger business. While there isn't much to support such a claim, an old WMMT report shared on a Racine Kewpee location's website claims that Thomas was a fan of the chain, even returning back to Kalamazoo in 1974 to set up the first Wendy's in Michigan.

In 2010, Nation's Restaurant News ran an article on Kewpee Burgers, in which citizens of Lima proudly called the hamburger stand an "institution." The small chain's owner, Harry Shutt, said that serving the customer was of utmost importance — something that Dave Thomas would have no doubt agreed with.