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Dave Thomas is best known for founding the Wendy's hamburger restaurant chain. He became the company's TV spokesman in 1989.
Dave Thomas - Mini Biography (2:15)
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Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas found enormous success with his fast food chain, despite coming from humble beginnings.
Colonel Sanders is synonymous with Kentucky Fried Chicken. He created the recipe, franchised it, and earned worldwide fame.
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With his folksy style and his relaxed pitch for his restaurant's, Thomas became a household name. A company survey during the 1990s, a decade during which Thomas starred in every Wendy's commercial that aired, found that 90 percent of Americans knew who Thomas was. After more than 800 commercials, it was clear that Thomas was one of the main reasons behind Wendy's status as the number-three burger restaurant in the country (behind McDonald's and Burger King), with more than 6,000 franchises.
Thomas also worked throughout his life to promote the adoption of foster children. He founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which promoted the creation of an employee benefits program for people who adopt, as well as a number of other groundbreaking initiatives. President George Bush named him a national spokesman on adoption issues. Thomas, who always regretted not finishing high school, hired a tutor and passed the G.E.D. high-school equivalency exam in 1993.
In December 1996, the portly Thomas had quadruple bypass surgery. Though he soon returned to his busy schedule of making commercials, he began undergoing kidney dialysis in early 2001. On January 8, 2002, at the age of 69, Thomas died of liver cancer at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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