Back in 1997, QSR’s founders had an idea: What if there was a resource that quick-service restaurant professionals could turn to for news and insights that helped them in their day-to-day business? What if a magazine took a vertical approach to the restaurant industry, homing in specifically on the counter-service niche that was in the midst of an evolutionary transition?
It was a big idea, one that needed a big launch. The team knew that the best way to ingrain QSR into the minds of quick-service professionals was by featuring an industry icon, someone with the cache to show readers that they were serious about the endeavor.
Enter Dave Thomas. The Wendy’s founder and all-around industry titan agreed to participate in a cover-story interview, and that opportunity arguably paved the way for other industry heavyweights—including Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, our second cover subject, and Subway founder Fred DeLuca, our third—to make time for a fledgling QSR.
Twenty years later, we haven’t forgotten the role Thomas played in establishing QSR as the leading voice for quick-service content. That’s why, to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we’ve committed $20,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (dtfa), a nonprofit organization Thomas launched in 1992.
“Dave Thomas certainly had a knack for business, but he never lost sight of the importance of helping,” says Webb Howell, publisher of QSR. “We are recognizing Dave’s contribution in helping get QSR off the ground by supporting the charity that was so near and dear to his heart. For our 20th anniversary, it is our pleasure to donate $1,000 for each year of our success—a total of $20,000—to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.”
Adoption as a cause was hugely important to Thomas; he learned he was adopted when he was 13, and in 1990, decades after founding Wendy’s, then-President George H. W. Bush asked Thomas to serve as a special liaison for his initiative “Adoption Works… for Everyone.” Two years later, DTFA was established, with Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge golf tournament kicking off fundraising efforts.
In its early years, the nonprofit focused on raising awareness around adoption and awarding grants to regional and national adoption organizations. Thomas himself was a strong proponent of adoption benefits, in which couples and individuals who adopted received the equivalent of maternity benefits. Despite the foundation’s connection to Wendy’s, Thomas wanted it to be its own independent public entity, rather than a corporation or family-only organization. It is the charity of choice for the restaurant brand, but franchisees are under no obligation to participate. Still, many corporate employees, operators, third-party vendors, and customers choose to participate.
“It would not have happened one, without Dave Thomas, and two, without the enduring commitment of Wendy’s—its customers and its franchisees and its partners, who unconditionally commit to this notion that every child deserves a safe, loving, and permanent home,” says Rita Soronen, president and CEO of DTFA.
In 2004, under Soronen’s leadership, the foundation launched Wendy’s Wonderful Kids to take its grant endeavors to the next level. Through this program, agencies are funded for the specific purpose of hiring adoption specialists to target children who have been in foster care the longest. It also helps the often-overlooked segment of older children and teens who are about to pass adoptive age. To date, more than 6,000 children have found permanent homes through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.