Three Countries, One Big Dream!
How Two Men Joined Forces to Become One of Wendy’s Largest Franchise Organizations
As we get ready to celebrate our 50th anniversary, we’re recounting some of our favorite Wendy’s® tales. From Frosty® lore to stories that illustrate how Dave’s values have touched people throughout the organization and beyond, we’re excited to continue this monthly series.
Today’s story shares how two business partners – Jhonny Mercado and Andres Garcia of JAE Restaurant Group – came together unexpectedly and joined forces with Eddie Rodriguez to leave a legacy. JAE owns more than 200 Wendy’s restaurants spanning locations including Panama, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and beyond.
My business partner, Andres Garcia, has been an all-time fan of Wendy’s fresh, never frozen beef* square hamburgers for as long as he can remember. Whenever he traveled to the United States for business or leisure, he routinely made Wendy’s his first stop. Andres had a dream of bringing the Wendy’s brand to Venezuela, and in the short span of four years, he opened 54 Wendy’s restaurants. At the time it was record-breaking!
In 1998, Andres and I crossed paths during a business meeting. His passion for the brand, along with his dream to expand his restaurant footprint, soon became mine. I joined the Wendy’s family by opening three restaurants with Andres in Venezuela. This was the beginning of a long-lasting business partnership that has evolved into a remarkable friendship.
Andres and I have different backgrounds and business philosophies. As an engineer, Andres has always believed in “process you measure, process you improve.” In contrast, I have always believed that success happens when you create and build with passion and energy. The simple fact is, we made a great team and the difference was a balanced complement that created synergy.
The success of our partnership in Venezuela inspired us to pursue the ‘American dream’ and we ventured into the U.S. market. We had a strong foundation and support from our family and loved ones, which was crucial to make our new business venture possible.
In 2007, we purchased five Wendy’s restaurants in Florida as JAI International Investment. In 2010, we acquired Wendy’s in the Panama market. By early 2014 in just seven short years, we owned 62 Wendy’s restaurants across Florida and New Mexico and were excited to acquire an additional 15 restaurants in El Paso, TX. At that time, our dream was to own 100 restaurants.
In August 2014, we teamed up with Wendy’s franchisee Eddie Rodriguez. Not only did we merge his 13 restaurants with our organization, but we gained and benefitted from his extensive knowledge through his years of experience. Due to our merger, JAI International Investment became JAE Restaurant Group, and shortly after, our restaurant footprint expanded throughout South Florida to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach. Since then, we have acquired the Knoxville, TN and Daytona, FL markets. I’m proud to say that our company currently operates 232 Wendy’s restaurants, with 12 more in different stages of development in the U.S. and two in Panama.
We all feel truly blessed to be members of the Wendy’s family, and we strive to honor Dave Thomas’ legacy in our community. JAE Restaurant Group actively supports the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® (DTFA) and we strongly believe in Dave Thomas’ value of ‘Give Something Back.’ Supporting the DTFA is our top priority, and we fully support Dave’s belief that every child deserves a loving and permanent home.
After 20 great years of partnership with Andres, he decided to retire, but Eddie and I remain business partners and still dream of growing bigger. Andres and I can positively say that we are living the American dream and we are very grateful for it!
* Fresh beef available in the contiguous U.S., Alaska and Canada.