Wendy’s made fast food history at Columbus Zoo

The nation’s first fast food restaurant chain to be located inside a zoo was none other than Columbus’ own Wendy’s and at the Columbus Zoo.

The hamburger chain initially took out a 10-year lease there and opened in May 1985 near the great ape enclosure. Framed posters, sent from zoos around the world, decorated the walls. The location would go on to have a 13-year run. 

Four-year-old elephants Boomer, left, and Belle in front of the new Wendy's restaurant at the Columbus Zoo in this photo from 1985.

Doral Chenoweth, the Dispatch’s restaurant columnist (otherwise known as “The Grumpy Gourmet”), wrote in jest after a 1992 visit that Colo the gorilla wasn’t the biggest draw at the zoo that day. Neither were the two giant pandas on loan from China at the time. 

“Nope. It’s Wendy’s, that homegrown attraction with international headquarters just one ZIP code to the south” (in Dublin), he wrote. At 3 p.m. on the day of his visit, the restaurant was packed.