Ever wondered how and why your parents chose your name? Most establishments and the name they’ve chosen for their business have a very good story behind it. How important that name is to them, how good it sounds, how universal its appeal is to the general public, to potential customers – there’s usually a juicy story behind every restaurant name. Let’s take a journey and look at the top 10 restaurants you didn’t know changed their name.
10. Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia – Taco Bell
People have probably seen the new Taco Bell commercial featuring the return of their Nacho Fries. If you enjoyed actor Josh Duhamel (from the Transformers saga) last year, this years commercial is equally great with actor James Marsden (from the X-Men saga) leading the Nacho Fries run. Taco Bell just doesn’t play around when it comes to their advertisements and promotions – the Josh Duhamel and James Marsden commercials are no joke, they were great trailers! But Taco Bell didn’t always have such a good handle on their brand. Taco Bell has been in business since 1954 and from that year until 1962, Taco Bell was not yet its name, it was originally called Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia. There’s no doubt that part of the Taco Bell name came from the last name of owner and founder Glen Bell. Bell started Taco Bell in the San Bernardino area in California and called it Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia. Taco Bell’s website shares the story of the company and states that customers called the tacos “tay-kohs” then. Now Taco Bell is one of the top fast food chains, not just in America, but globally as well. As a matter of fact, to start off the year 2019, the company debuted in Thailand and opened their first store in Bangkok.
9. St. Louis Bread Company – Panera Bread
The Panera Bread company is a bakery slash cafe slash restaurant that’s based in Missouri and was founded by Ronald Shaich about 38 years ago. According to Ron Shaich’s website, Panera Bread has 2,400 restaurants and employs more than 100,000 people. The company earns almost $6 billion annually. In St. Louis, Missouri, Panera Bread is known as the St. Louis Bread Company. This was the first and original name of the famous restaurant. When they sold Au Bon Pain, a kind of spin-off restaurant, that’s when they started using the name Panera Bread in establishments outside St. Louis and Missouri. Back in December 2018, to celebrate the coming new year, Panera Bread gave out free bagels every day. Of course there was a catch, the freebies were only for new customers. Today, Panera Bread still remains a leader in baked, healthy, and fresh bread and pastry that is guaranteed delicious every day. They continue to promote campaigns that not only advocate for healthy living through healthy eating (like transparency through nutritional menu labeling), but also increase customer awareness and potential loyalty. If someone is looking to seriously change the way they eat, Panera Bread, or the St. Louis Bread Company, is almost always the first store they’d go to for the food transition.
8. Top Hat – Sonic Drive-In
For the winter season and the new year, Sonic Drive-In gives its customers a new dish best eaten during the cold weather, the Hearty Chili Bowl. It’s a piping hot bowl of beef, vegetables, and beans, topped with its spicy seasoning. For only $2.49, it can be enjoyed as a side dish, snack, or a meal, and can be topped off with Fritos, cheese, and onions for an additional charge. That’s just one of the many dishes that makes Sonic Drive-In unique and stand out from the many fast food choices out there. Sonic Drive-In serves about 3 million customers every day and their signature is the drive-in service experience. Sonic Drive-In was founded and started by Troy Smith in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Back in 1953, it was first called Top Hat, and according to Sonic Drive-In’s website, Troy Smith started out as a humble entrepreneur with a single small fast food store that grew to be one of the best known and well-loved restaurants in the country. Troy Smith decided to change the name to Sonic in 1959, because Top Hat was already trademarked. But Sonic seemed like a much better fit, and he chose that because their slogan then, and now, is Service with the Speed of Sound.
7. DomiNick’s – Domino’s
What is $900 and an old ‘59 Volkswagen Beetle worth to a person? Well we’ll answer that in a few moments, first let’s talk about Domino’s. Domino’s is one of the biggest and most successful pizza restaurants in the country, and quite impressively, in the whole world. While there are about 5,000 stores in the United States alone, there are at least 15,000 stores in total spread all over the globe. Domino’s is up there with McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC in global prominence. But they started out with a slightly different name back in the sixties, DomiNick’s. Tom and James Monaghan are Michigan-based brothers who bought a small pizzeria business together with just $900 and a used Volkswagen Beetle as their delivery vehicle. The pizza store they bought was called DomiNick’s and that’s how Domino’s started in 1960. Their business was so successful and after just 4 years they changed the named of the store to Domino’s. They were not able to open new restaurants under the DomiNik’s name because they only owned the name for the location they bought. Unfortunately for James, he had a steady job and did not want the instability of being a restauranteur and sold his share back to his brother in exchange for the Volkswagen Beetle. Fast forward 4 decades later, Tom sold his Domino’s stock for an unconfirmed $1 billion. We hope James gets free pizza for life and really nice birthday gifts from his brother.
6. Insta-Burger King – Burger King
If you know who Andy Warhol was then you are either an art aficionado or a fan of pop culture. Andy Warhol was probably the most popular artist in the pop art movement, and almost 32 years from the day of his death, he appeared in one of the most watched events on American television. It was Burger King who reminded the American people about Andy Warhol. A 45-second commercial aired during Super Bowl LIII showing Andy eating a Burger King Whopper, and it was insanely brilliant. Burger King’s aim was simple. Their burgers are for everybody, no matter who you are, artist or athlete, rich or poor, superstar or not. They had a simple yet provocative slogan at the end of the clip, “Eat Like Andy,” and that was it. This is the genius that Burger King is used to operating with when it comes to their products and promotions. It’s just one more reason why Burger King remains one of the top hamburger chains in the US and the rest of the world. But they were not always known as Burger King, though, not in the first 8 years. From 1953 to 1961, the restaurant was called Insta-Burger King, the name came from the insta-broiler that was used to cook the burgers in 1953. That name doesn’t really roll off the tongue, so it’s a good thing they changed it.
5. The Wet Whisker – Seattle’s Best Coffee
Seattle’s Best Coffee is one of the youngest companies on this list, having been established just 49 years ago. The year was 1970 when two brothers opened a small shop that served ice cream and coffee in Seattle, Washington. Jim Stewart, and his brother Dave Stewart, started a coffee business with zero knowledge about brewing coffee on Whidbey Island near Seattle. According to the Seattle’s Best website, they changed the name after winning a coffee tasting competition to declare the best cup of coffee in all of Seattle. From then on their little coffee shop was known as Seattle’s Best Coffee. But during the company’s humble beginnings, while the brothers were starting to get used to brewing coffee and getting their coffee beans from local growers, their company was called the Stewart Brothers’ Wet Whisker. “Wet Whisker” is actually an endearing name for a coffee shop, makes us want to check it out and see what’s up. They even had a homey and welcoming logo to match the already effective name. This is one of the few company name changes that is in part, a declaration, and a truth, to a degree, that it really is Seattle’s Best Coffee.
4. Chicken on the Run – Popeyes
The famous Louisiana Kitchen restaurant has been serving customers since 1972 and has one of the most original combo dishes in fast food restaurant history – who doesn’t love their chicken and buttermilk biscuits? The Popeyes website tells us that the company started 47 years ago and was named Chicken on the Run. Since no one really remembers that name, it’s safe to say that the launch of the company was not a huge success. But after sticking it out, they rebranded after a few months, changing the name to Popeyes and adding their famous New Orleans-style spicy chicken to the menu. Founder Alvin “Al” Copeland shares that he got the idea for the restaurant’s name from New York Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, Gene Hackman’s character in the 1971 film The French Connection. No connection to the cartoon character Popeye the sailor man.
3. T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs – Applebee’s
Sometimes, names of restaurants can be a handful, or a mouthful. Take KFC, it’s not really that long, but KFC was shortened from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mostly, it’s better if it’s short and catchy, like In-N-Out, or Wendy’s. It’s a very good idea that Applebee’s changed its name to what it is now, just three syllables that kind of rolls right off the tongue. Given the company has one dollar only Drinks of the Month, people would definitely not be able to articulate the chain’s original name. We told you it was a mouthful, and it is. A couple from Atlanta, Georgia were the founders of Applebee’s, Bill Palmer and his wife TJ Palmer. In 1980, they opened T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs. Then in 1986, it was changed to Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, a shorter name from the original, at least we can just call it Applebee’s now. Back to that $1 drink, the Applebee’s website shares in detail what February’s Hurricane cocktail is all about. No need to take a trip to New Orleans – you can just hit up your local Applebee’s for a little Mardi Gras taste for only $1. Cheers!
2. Topsy’s – Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box is a nice, fun-sounding name for a burger joint. It was spot-on in taking the idea of a popular wind-up toy and fusing it with burgers, tacos, and curly fries. But Jack in the Box’s original name was also… well, okay. It was known in the beginning as Topsy’s Drive-In. Not bad, right? But this name would only stick until 1941, then it was changed to Oscar’s. Of course, Oscar’s was taken from the name of Jack in the Box founder Robert Oscar Peterson. But that didn’t stick either, because in 1951 they changed it to Jack in the Box. Beginning with that original El Cajon Boulevard location, they decided to change all of their restaurants named Oscar’s to Jack in the Box. This was the beginning of the restaurants growth throughout America. Jack in the Box continues to be relevant by introducing new promotions. A one time only offer of a $6 meal called a Super Jack’d Monday Box was recently offered and included tacos, chicken nuggets, curly fries, an egg roll, and a drink to wash it all down. The limited promotion was also a team-up with food delivery company DoorDash.
1. McDonald’s Bar-B-Que – McDonald’s
McDonald’s is a global brand name known all over the world. It is pop culture at its finest. Who, in any random corner of the Earth, would not know about McDonald’s? Who doesn’t know what a Big Mac is, what a Quarter Pounder is, or what a Chicken McNugget is? It’s a household name in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, even Japan, China, Germany, France, Australia, Brazil, and Russia. The company website states they have 36,000 stores in 100 countries. McDonald’s has penetrated the market in almost all continents, near and far, and it all started in San Bernardino, California. Two brothers, Richard “Dick” McDonald and Maurice “Mac” McDonald had a hot idea for selling 15-cent hamburgers and doing it in a very fast manner. They called it the Speedee Service System. But before the true golden arches came to be, they started in 1940 as a restaurant called McDonald’s Bar-B-Que. It wasn’t all just burgers and fries back then. Since their Speedee Service System proved to be a true innovation in the fast food business, which in turn generated more profits, they focused on that. Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton in the film The Founder) later purchased the company from the brothers in 1955, setting the stage for what Mickey D’s is today.