The Surprising Way Applebee's Got Its Name

The restaurant Applebee's is known for its drink deals, hearty ribs, and rich pasta dishes. It certainly doesn't sell either apples or bees, so it's admittedly kind of an odd name for the casual dining chain. But there's a very good reason for that: It's because the founders picked the name at random out of a phone book, and it wasn't even their first choice.

Bill and T.J. Palmer were a married couple living in Georgia, when they decided they wanted to open up a restaurant "that had a neighborhood pub feel to it and could offer friendly service along with quality fare at a lower price than most of their competition," according to Rewind & Capture. By 1980, they were just about all set to open, except for one thing. They still needed a name. So one night, the Palmers sat down and simply started flipping through a phone book until they found a name they liked.

The Palmers picked the Applebee's name out of a phone book

When Bill and T.J. came across the name Appleby, they knew it was the one, but they quickly ran into a problem. Georgia State Incorporations told them the name Appleby was already copyrighted, per Insider. They tried a couple other names, including Cinnamon and Pepper, but none of them were available either. So they decided to try their original choice again but with a slight modification.

"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.,'" T.J. Palmer recalled, via the Imponderables.

The first location opened in Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after, under the name T.J. Applebee's Rx for Edibles & Elixirs, per Applebee's. Before long, the couple would sell the restaurant to W.R. Grace and Co., and the name Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar would be adopted in 1986.