Wendy's began on November 15, 1969, when the company's founder, Dave Thomas, opened his first restaurant. It was located at 257 East Broad Street, in Columbus, Ohio. Thomas chose the name Wendy's in honor of his daughter. He wanted to provide his customers with fast, hearty food, in a family setting. One year later, Thomas opened a second restaurant, also in Columbus. This eatery had the first modern drive-thru window among fast food restaurants.
Wendy's grew quickly after the opening of this second restaurant. By 1976, Wendy's had opened or franchised five hundred restaurants, including some in Canada. Two years later, the company had topped one thousand restaurants, and by 1979, the firm operated more than 1,500 eateries, including some in Mexico. Also in 1979, Wendy's was the first fast food restaurant to introduce a salad bar. The company continued to add approximately five hundred restaurants each year during the early 1980s.
During the 1990s, Wendy's continued to expand, operating over six thousand Wendy's restaurants by 2001. In 1996, the company purchased Tim Horton's. Expanding its holdings even further, in 2002, the firm purchased Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. In 2001, the company also became the sponsor of a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament in Columbus, Ohio. The firm's growth was partly due to its creative advertising. In 1984, the company introduced its "Where's the Beef" campaign, which made fun of other restaurants' hamburgers. This phrase became a catchphrase for Americans during the mid 1980s. Dave Thomas also starred in most of Wendy's commercials from the late 1980s until his death in 2002. Customers identified with Thomas and his pledge to provide them with high-quality food.