Commercial Icons: The Sergeant & The Colonel
Quote for Today: “The harder you work the more luck you have.” Dave Thomas
On this date fourteen years ago Dave Thomas passed away. Mr. Thomas was born in Atlantic City New Jersey and adopted by a couple from Kalamazoo Michigan when he was six months old. His adoptive mother died when he was five and two more stepmothers were lost before his tenth birthday. As a teen his father remarried again and moved the family to Fort Wayne Indiana. It was here where young Dave got his first restaurant job at age 15, when his family decided to move again, he refused, quit school and started working full time.
In 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War, Dave decided to enlist rather than being drafted and wound up overseas in Germany as a Mess Sergeant responsible for the daily feeding of 200 soldiers. After his discharge in 1953, he went back to the Hobby House Restaurant in Ft. Wayne. While head chef there in the mid 50′s, Colonel Harlan Sanders came calling and convinced the Clausses, owners of the Hobby House, to franchise the restaurant as a KFC. The Clausses ended up owning multiple KFC franchises in the Midwest and Dave worked with the Colonel to give KFC brand recognition and profitability. Major changes were the signature KFC Chicken Bucket and Sanders himself appearing in commercials. In the mid 60′s Dave was sent by the Clausses to help shape up four franchises they co-owned in Columbus Ohio.
By 1968 Dave had done such a good job that he sold back his shares in the restaurants to Sanders for $1.5 million. The first Wendy’s was formed a year later in Columbus. When Wendy’s was struggling in the post (Where’s the Beef) campaign Dave took over the role of TV Spokesperson and turned the company around making over 800 commercials. Check out this one from 1992 introducing Wendy’s salads.
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