Wendy’s to close its prototype

COLUMBUS Ohio Wendy’s said it would close the chain’s prototype restaurant, opened here in 1969 by Dave Thomas because he believed there was a huge opportunity for a quick-service concept serving freshly made hamburgers.

Franchisor Wendy’s International Inc., the descendant of that original store, said the unit was no longer economically feasible. It noted that the restaurant did not have a drive-thru, and parking was limited. What’s more, a spokesman told local media, the dependence of the unit on state-government offices limited the  potential for late night and weekend business, when the state legislature is not in session. Columbus is the state capital. Wendy’s has recently cited late-night business as a major avenue of sales growth, as has arch-rival McDonald’s.

The restaurant will close on March 2. It was not known if a small Wendy’s museum inside will move elsewhere.

Thomas, who died in 2002, opened the store after making millions from the sale of his successful KFC franchise. He explained throughout his time as Wendy’s leader and advertising spokesman that he saw a niche back in the late 1960s that the leading burger chains at the time were not addressing. Concepts like McDonald’s, Burger King and Burger Chef were batch-producing burgers, wrapping them all at once, and holding them under heat lamps until a customer ordered one.

Thomas decided to try making burgers for each customer, from ground beef that had not been frozen. When a customer came through the door, he would immediately slap one of the burgers on the grill. If the customer didn’t order one, the patty would end up in chili, which his venture also featured. Thomas featured square burgers because he believed he could get more patties on the grill at peak times.

He named the restaurant after his daughter, who went by the nickname Wendy.

Wendy’s International is headquartered in the nearby suburb of Dublin, Ohio. It operates or franchises about 6,600 units worldwide today.