The employees are on edge at the Wendy's Restaurant on 6th Avenue in Denver. They stand giggling in their navy pants and striped shirts, waiting for the boss of all burgers, Dave Thomas, to arrive.
The 62-year-old Thomas enters right on time, surrounded by men sporting mini-versions of his new book, Well Done! The Common Guy's Guide to Everyday Success, on their lapels. Thomas glad-hands the crew, inspects a spotless kitchen, and proudly points out that Wendy's presses the fat out of its burgers while its competitors ''wrap it up and give it to you.'' He lauds a / perfectly spick-and-span yellow mop bucket and announces, ''A clean restaurant starts here.''
Quite the low-key humorist, Thomas welcomes the coverage his literary exploit has sparked, telling customers, ''You read Entertainment Weekly, don'tcha? ... Just say yes.'' This is definitely the guy from the commercials.
Thomas doesn't enunciate well and he's not a fancy dresser, but he's got a sincere delivery that adds up to down-home cute. He says he's had fun starring in all those TV spots (over 300 since 1989) but calls his acting ''a zero.'' Thomas' idea of a gourmet meal, he says, is a Wendy's double cheese with a bowl of chili, french fries, a Frosty, and a Diet Coke. What else can you expect from a guy who includes chocolate pudding at his salad bar?
Though he doesn't really like to read, Thomas says he's proud of his new book because it tells the stories of 70 successful people with ''the common thread of honesty and integrity.'' He hopes their stories will inspire others ''to do the right thing.'' (Thomas, who was adopted in 1932, is donating the book's proceeds to his adoption foundation.) That said, he sips a Diet Coke and heads off to spread the word for goodwill and good burgers. Not necessarily in that order.