When we’re heading to the drive-through, we usually want our food fast, hot, and tasty. We’re not really thinking about how it got into our hands so quickly, or the ramifications of such speed. We’re too busy trying not to let anyone see us inhaling burgers and slurping down shakes to worry about how our meal was prepared or if employees heard us arguing with our partner through the drive-through speaker.
But sometimes, it’s worth noting the secrets of fast-food chains, whether it’s to save a few bucks or keep our expectations in check. Not to yuck your yum, but here are some secrets Wendy’s probably would like to keep under wraps. And for more, check out 11 Secrets Popeyes Doesn’t Want You to Know.
In a 2019 interview commemorating the chain’s 50th anniversary, Wendy Thomas revealed that before her dad died in 2002, he told her that he regretted naming the fast-food chain after her. “He said, ‘You know what? I’m sorry.’ I asked him what he meant. He explained, ‘I should’ve just named it after myself, because it put a lot of pressure on you.'” While she agreed that it was a lot of pressure, she said the name does have its advantages. “Sometimes if I need a reservation, it helps!”
Wendy also revealed that her dad’s idea to open a restaurant was pretty out of the blue. She said he came home one day and announced he was going to start a restaurant and that it was only going to serve hamburgers. “He wanted a character, because he worked for the Colonel at Kentucky Fried Chicken and knew how much that persona mattered. He said, ‘Wendy, pull your hair up in pigtails.’ So, I did. He got his camera and took pictures of me and my sister and said, ‘Yep, it’s going to be Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers.’ That was it. There was no marketing research, no nothing. Just boom. That’s it.”
Once a legend that made the rounds on social media, Wendy’s website asserts that the famous chili is, in fact, made out of hamburger that doesn’t make it into customers’ hands. Not only that, but this is how founder Dave Thoman would have wanted it: “Dave knew his hamburgers would have a shorter shelf-life. He even asked himself, “what do you do with the leftover hamburger?” The answer was simple: combine the beef we use for our hamburgers with a hearty helping of vegetables, chili beans and a dash of spice.”
A former Wendy’s employee wrote on Reddit that peak hour was the best time to order at the restaurant. “All stations were manned by the fastest and most experienced employees during the lunch rush. We’d be running that place like a machine. Fresh food was constantly being made and sold so everything was straight out of the fryer or fresh off the grill and it was rare to have a customer wait over 2 minutes.”
Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, didn’t finish high school the first time around, but he earned his GED at age 61.
Former Wendy’s employee Kayla Blanton penned an article for INSIDER to state a fast-food open secret: the mic is always on in the drive-through. “When you pull up to the speaker in a drive-thru lane, your car sets off a sensor that turns on the microphone. As long as your car is triggering that sensor, the external microphone stays on. So yeah, they can hear you talking to your mom on the phone, or complaining about the line in front of you. So be nice.”
Blanton also mentioned that there’s nothing “fresh-squeezed” about the restaurant’s lemonade, despite the fact that there are fresh lemon slices in the display pitcher. “Where I worked, they were just for show. I hate to break it to you, but the lemonade we would make at my store was just about as ‘fresh’ as the powder you mix with water at home. And it calls for a ton of white sugar—like, a ton. So think about that the next time you go for a large.”
Some of this seems accurate. On Wendy’s menu, for example, a small lemonade has 49 grams of sugar, but the ingredients are pretty good, considering, and include lemon juice and lemon pulp and no artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup.
A previous version of this article was originally published on July 8, 2021.