October 11, 2006

The Origins of Applebee's

Reader Dawn Weese writes:

Why is Applebee's callled Applebee's? The restaurant doesn't sell a lot of items with apples in them and doesn't have anything to do with bees.

I assumed that the restaurant was named after its founder. Wrong! Here's the story, according to the corporate website:

Applebee's was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, by Bill and T.J. Palmer. The Palmers envisioned a restaurant that would provide full service, consistently good food, reasonable prices and quality service in a neighborhood setting. Their first restaurant, T.J. Applebee's Rx for Edibles & Elixirs, opened in November 1980.

Doesn't quite answer the question, does it? The most complete story for the origins of the name that I could find comes from T.J. Palmer, a co-founder of the first Applebee's in Atlanta. She is estranged from her husband, Bill Palmer, and her history obviously reflects her point-of-view:

Bill, Frank, and I sat in the kitchen going through the phone book. Bill wanted the name "Appleby's" from the beginning but this name was taken according to Georgia State Incorporations. Just two weeks before I called the state to reserve the name, someone else had registered the name Appleby's. I researched this to find out that a new restaurant was opening at Shannon Mall in South Atlanta under the name Appleby's. Next I tried the name Cinnamon's. It was taken too. I tried a third name, Peppers. It was also taken. I called the state and asked if I put initials in front of Applebys and changed the spelling would it be accepted? The state representative said yes so I reserved the name "T. J. Applebee's, Inc." (Of course at this point in our lives Bill liked the name "TJ". In fact, when the Tj was dropped, Bill told me it was odd as just "Applebee's".)

[Frank wanted to have the initials WJ in the name, after his wife. Bill wanted to use TJ. He thought it had a better ring to it. We had to do something to use the name Appleby's. This was short lived. During opening night, a customer met Bill and I and she said "How nice. You named it after your wife!" Bill spoke right up and said "NO! She had nothing to do with it. I pulled the name out of a hat."