DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) _ Wendy's International Inc. appointed John T. Schuessler, formerly head of its U.S. operations, as chief executive and president of the fast-food restaurant concern.

Wendy's founder Dave Thomas continues as senior chairman of the board, the company said in a statement on Friday.

Thomas, well-known for his appearance in commercials for the company, had temporarily served in the all three top roles at the company after Gordon F. Teter, chairman, CEO and president, died unexpectedly in December.

``Jack has provided outstanding leadership and delivered excellent results during his 25-year career at Wendy's,'' Thomas said. ``He has the right combination of restaurant industry experience, management skills and strategic planning ability to lead our organization.''

``My goal and the challenge for our company is to improve shareholder value,'' Schuessler said of the company's stock, which is trading more than 40 percent below its 52-week high of $31.68. ``We raised our performance levels in many key areas during 1999 and plan to deliver excellent results again in 2000.''

In morning trading Friday, Wendy's shares were down 62 1/2 cents, or 3.4 percent, at $17.62 1/2.

Schuessler, 49, joined Wendy's in 1974 as a manager trainee for a franchisee in Atlanta. He was promoted through the Wendy's organization and became president and chief operating officer of the company's U.S. operations in February 1997. In the past year, he also has assumed responsibility for Wendy's of Canada.

Wendy's, based in this Columbus suburb, has more than $7 billion in systemwide sales through Wendy's and its Tim Hortons coffee-and-doughnut chain. There are more than 5,500 Wendy's restaurants in the United States, Canada and international markets. Tim Hortons has more than 1,800 restaurants in North America.