The restaurant industry lost one of its legends and a super nice guy last week when Joe Karam passed away at age 88. Joe was one of the early investors in the Wendy’s brand in 1970 with Dave Thomas.
Joe expanded his role from investor to franchisee in 1976 and grew his company -- Cedar Enterprises -- from one restaurant to 222 in many markets.
I knew Joe from my 18 years with the Wendy’s brand in Dublin, Ohio and through his son, David Karam, who was President of Wendy’s from 2008-11. David and I served together as members of the company’s executive team and formed a friendship based on a set of shared values.
Our values were very similar to the ones that Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s with in 1969 and attracted Joe to the brand. Do the Right Thing, Treat People with Respect, and Give Something Back are not slogans at Wendy’s… those values are in the brand’s DNA.
Joe’s life was remarkable in many ways, as you can see in the attached obituary. He left an incredible mark on Columbus, a positive imprint on so many people and, most importantly, a loving family.
Joe’s legacy includes commitment to hard work, success in building a company with his family and giving back to those in need. Most remarkable was his commitment to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where he was a founding board member. In addition to a lifetime of fundraising for St. Jude’s, Joe was a big supporter of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a cause that is dear to my heart.
Joe was a native of Washington, Pa., and so am I, so we share that bond. We also spent a great deal of our lives in the Wendy’s family. I am thankful for everything Joe did to help grow one of Ohio’s most successful brands around North America. The ORA is proud of him, too. May he rest in peace.