By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
A drive up or down Liberal’s Kansas Avenue reveals much in the way of shopping and places to eat.
One fixture along one of the town’s main streets has been Wendy’s near the stop light at Seventh and Kansas. That fixture will soon be gone, but not to worry. Wendy’s will still be a part of Liberal, just in a new locale.
Wendy’s spokesman Al Copp talked at last week’s New Business event hosted by the Joint Economic Development Committee, and he said while restaurant officials were unsure how Wendy’s would do in Liberal, they took the gamble of putting one in the Seward County community in 1985.
“Eventually, we settled where we’re at, so we’ve been there all the time,” he said.
Copp said as with other franchises in the chain, Liberal’s Wendy’s has operated under the principles of the company’s late founder, Dave Thomas.
“One of the things he always talked about was just be nice,” he said. “I think that’s the key when you’re in the people business. We can’t make any money if you don’t come in. We can’t reinvest if you don’t come in whether it’s a 99-cent hamburger or a Frosty, a salad. The other part of it is do the right thing. We all make mistakes in this business. The order wasn’t complete at the pick up window. Something’s got the wrong condiment on it.”
Going into business to make money, Copp said Wendy’s is investing $2.8 million into its new building near the former Six Points intersection near National Beef and the new Love’s Truck Stop.
“When we get done, we’re going to have $2.8 or $2.9. Why? Because we’ve been here since 1985, and we owe it to you people to give you something new,” he said. “It’s going to have a fire place. It’s going to have a wi-fi lounge. It’s going to have TVs. It’s going to have everything. It’s got a device that cooks bacon that senses the bacon so it’s not overcooked or undercooked. Every other store that works under me wants the same equipment.”
Copp described another new piece of equipment in the Wendy’s kitchen at the new Liberal location.
“We have a sensor on baked potatoes,” he said. “Depending on the size of the potato, it tells you when it’s done. This is going to have a double drive-thru, so you can do more pickup window.”
Copp then talked briefly about Dave Thomas’ adoption foundation.
“His thought process was no child should be without a home, without a parent,” he said. “It’s a costly venture. If you get on the adoption foundation website, Wendy’s will help you fund a family to adopt kids if you want to adopt. They’ll help you with the paperwork. He was adopted. He came from nothing and ended up a multi-millionaire.”
Copp said in 2016, Liberal’s Wendy’s alone raised $10,000 for Thomas’ foundation.
“Ten grand from this one store,” he said. “We got 7,000 Wendy’s. I’m covering 13 as a retired guy.”
Copp said he is proud to be in Southwest Kansas and excited to be in Liberal for the next month.
“I invite you all to come in. If anybody’s looking for a job, you have a daughter, a son, you know somebody that’s looking for work, we’re paying above minimum wage,” he said. “You’ll have something you’ll be very proud of. You step in that store, it’s a Cadillac. It’s not a Lincoln. It’s a Cadillac. It’s first class all the way.”
Copp said Wendy’s recently opened a new restaurant in Garden City, and opening week at that location set a national record for sales, and he wants Liberal’s newest Wendy’s to break it.
“For Garden City to beat Chicago, Illinois, New York City, Los Angeles, California, we had more sales that week than in the nation,” he said.
Wendy’s new Liberal restaurant will provide an economic boost as well, as Copp said 45 new people will be hired.
“We got applications at the old store,” he said. “We’ve hired probably 25 right now in addition to the people working for us. They’re going to transfer over. We’re going to close that store on the 23rd. We’ll gradually transfer the paper supplies over. We’re going to open May 1st at the new facility. I’m going to be there to greet everybody. You’ll hear my laugh, my roar. I’ll be shaking hands.”
Copp said he is looking forward to seeing what a new Wendy’s means for Liberal.
“I’m sure glad that I gave the OK to build here, and we have made a lot of money,” he said. “Another 30 years, we’ll see what happens. Thank y’all. We appreciate your support. I want you to see the double drive-thru and a unique way that we’re going to serve you as you come in the restaurant. We’re going to call you by name.”
Copp said this allows employees to get to know customers and provide better service.
“If you’ve got that touch, it makes a difference,” he said.