Applebee’s is one of those chain restaurants that you really don’t give much thought to. Even if you’re a regular, it probably just seems like one day it appeared, fully realized, in the universe. But in reality, Applebee’s got its start as a “mom and pop” restaurant, and there are most likely a lot of other things you didn’t know about this major national chain.
The mom and pop who founded Applebee’s were Bill and T.J. Palmer, a married couple who opened the first location with a $50,000 loan under a slightly longer name (we’ll get to that in a bit) in Decatur, Georgia, on November 9, 1980. It was an immediate success, and a few years later they opened a second location on Buford Highway outside Atlanta before selling the company to chemical conglomerate W.R. Grace and Company in 1983. Bill stayed on as president of the company, guiding it to become a successful franchise system. If you’re interested in a full behind-the-scenes look at its early years, we suggest you check out this site, a thorough and fascinating play-by-play written by T.J.
The main concept of the restaurant was simple: Its founders intended it to be a place that diners could treat as their local neighborhood restaurant. In 1986, the name of the chain was officially changed from T.J. Applebee’s to Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar. A pair of Kansas City franchisees purchased the company from W.R. Grace and Company in 1988, and from 1993 to 2005 it saw unprecedented growth, opening 100 or more new locations yearly. In 2007, the chain was purchased by IHOP for $2.1 billion, and together the two formed DineEquity, Applebee’s current parent company; nearly every single location of both IHOP and Applebee’s are franchisee-owned.
Today, there are more than 1,500 Applebee’s locations worldwide, in countries including Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Greece, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, China, and Egypt. The company is constantly reinventing itself; five years ago they unveiled a “revitalization” concept, with updated interiors and exteriors featuring warmer colors, neighborhood-specific features, and new menu items. Applebee’s may never return to its roots as a neighborhood mom-and-pop, but they’ve certainly done a good job of making each location look like one. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about the chain.
It Was Inspired by a Visit to an Atlanta Hotspot Named Billy’s
Several Other Names Were Considered Before Applebee’s