10 Things You Didn’t Know About Applebee’s

This ‘grill and bar’ has quite the interesting backstory

Photo Applebee's Beer Modified: Flickr/ Andrew MagerCCBY-SA4.0

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Applebee’s

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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. 

It Was Inspired by a Visit to an Atlanta Hotspot Named Billy’s

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In the late 1970s, one of the hottest restaurant chains in Atlanta was called Billy’s. Bill and T.J. Palmer, who were interested in owning a restaurant that served food and spirits, visited a location and saw how hopping it was. Wanting in, they took out a $20,000 loan and bought into the worst-performing Billy’s, quickly turning its sales around. Billy’s management took the restaurant back and refunded the couple’s money with a bad check. Devastated, the Palmers decided to venture out on their own, and today Billy’s has been forgotten while Applebee’s is a household name. 

Several Other Names Were Considered Before Applebee’s

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Bill Palmer wanted the new restaurant’s name to be Appleby’s, but it was already registered in the state of Georgia. T.J. Palmer looked into Cinnamon’s and Peppers, but those were registered, too. So they changed the spelling of Appleby’s to Applebee’s and tacked T.J. to the front of it, which provided enough of a differentiation to be licensed. 

The Original Name Was a Lot Longer Than It Is Now

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The duo didn’t want the restaurant to be the same old bar and grill, so they replaced the word “bar” with “elixirs” and “grill” with “edibles.” So the restaurant’s original name was T.J. Applebee’s Edibles and Elixirs. 

The Old Logo’s Font Is Named Eckmann-Schrift

Photo Applebee's Beer Modified: Flickr/ Andrew Mager/ CCBY-SA4.0

When you think about it, it’s actually a really funky font

The Original Theme Was an Old Drugstore

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The first location had an old wooden drugstore Indian holding cigars, a “Prescriptions” sign in the window, and another sign reading “Candy Apples 5 Cents.” The original stained glass design over the bar (which you can see here) even read “RX for Edibles & Elixirs.”

The Original Menu Included Quiche and Quail

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Just about every popular ‘80s finger food was on the original menu, including fried mushrooms; chicken fingers; potato skins; fries; onion rings; and nachos with chili (T.J.’s recipe), cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes piled high, which is still one of the most popular menu items. But a couple other ‘80s fad dishes that made the menu are long gone: quiche and quail. Gumbo was also a top-seller. 

The Co-Founder Is Still a Major Franchise Owner

Photo Applebee's Modified: Flickr/ Mike Mozart/ CC4.0

Bill Palmer became an Applebee’s franchise owner in 1985, and is today the owner of more than 35 locations. 

Commercial Voice-Overs Have Been Done by Wanda Sykes, John Corbett, and Jason Sudeikis

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The chain has hired some rather high-profile talent for its commercials: You may remember Wanda Sykes’ “Get it together, baby!”; the recognizable voice of John Corbett (of Northern Exposure, Sex and the City, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) graced commercials for a while; and SNL’s Jason Sudeikis is the current voice-over talent.  

They’ve Been Sued For Plenty of Reasons

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Every large chain restaurant is bound to be sued for one reason or another, but there have been a few high-profile lawsuits brought against Applebee’s in recent years. There is an ongoing class-action lawsuit by former employees who claim to have been paid below minimum wage, a father is suing the chain over the choking death of his 48-year-old son, and a lawsuit against the chain in which a man burned his face while attempting to pray over a hot plate of fajitas was recently thrown out of court

The Unhealthiest Menu Item Is New England Fish & Chips

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Looking to eat healthy at Applebee’s? Don’t order the New England fish and chips, which is the most calorie-laden dish on the entire menu. It contains 1,970 calories, 136 grams of fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 4,180 grams of sodium, and 134 grams of carbohydrates. The healthiest entrée on the menu is the Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains, which contains just 350 calories and 10 grams of fat.