Building A Better Burger

How Dave Thomas turned a local restaurant into a very beefy business.

Dave thomas' face is everywhere: billboards, TV commercials, life-sized posters in the window of every Wendy's restaurant. It's the face that launched a hamburger chain, and built it into a $4.2 million dollar empire.

With more than 4,500 restaurants in the United States and 34 other countries, Wendy's repeatedly beats McDonald's as the number one burger joint in an annual survey by Restaurant & Institutions magazine. Burger aficionados consistently rate Wendy's high on the quality scale. And it's all due to Thomas' hard work, dedication and commitment to building a better restaurant.

"In 1940, at the age of eight, I dreamed that one day I would own the best restaurant in the world. All of the customers would love my food, and all of my employees would do everything they were supposed to do. But most important, everyone would think I was a good boss, and every day when I walked into the restaurant, people would be glad to see me," writes Thomas on the opening page of his autobiography, Dave's Way (Berkley Books).

Thomas candidly admits that achieving that dream was a study in survival. "Early on, I realized there is no easy way," says Thomas. "If you want something, you have to go out and work for it. The idea is to do something you love."

Ask him what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, and Thomas tells you straight out that anyone can be successful if he or she is dedicated to a service or product, has strong convictions and is willing to work hard to build experience. As the saying goes, however, it's easier said than done.

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This article was originally published in the March 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Building A Better Burger.

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