Dave Thomas and Colonel Sanders met for the first time in the 1950s, and Thomas became an early cook for a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise that Sanders bought in Fort Wayne, Ind. Per the Wendy’s website, Col. Sanders “quickly became one of Dave’s strongest mentors.”
In 1962, Thomas took over four struggling KFC franchises in Columbus, Ohio, despite Sanders’ disapproval. Thomas turned around the franchises by simplifying the menu and introducing the classic rotating red bucket sign. He also convinced Sanders to start appearing in TV commercials for KFC, which Thomas would later do himself for Wendy’s.
In an interview with POV Magazine in 1997, Thomas said his differences with Sanders prompted him to pursue his own goals. He eventually sold his stake in the four KFC franchises back to the colonel for $1.5 million, using the money to open his first Wendy's in 1969.