Our opening night, November 19, 1980, we were packed. There was no standing room. Food and drinks were free from 7 PM until 9:30 PM. It was exciting and so much fun. Everything was going right. Early on, Bill came to the kitchen and told me that he had heard someone say, "This place won't last two weeks." He was so worried. I said, "Are you going to let someone who doesn't even know us effect you?" As the night continued, customers stayed even though we started charging for items after 9:30 PM
There is no doubt that Applebee's early success was due to the efforts of our first kitchen managers; Glenn Williams and Rita Blount. Glenn brought a lot of his own recipes such as the soups and the quiche. Our best soup was the gumbo. No other restaurant had gumbo like Glenns'. One of our Applebee's specialties was nachos. They were loaded with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and piled six inches high. Glenn opted to use my chili recipe and it was made fresh every day. So many of Applebee's items were made fresh back then. Our number one item most talked about was the steak fries: every order cooked to a perfect golden brown. Thank you Glenn and Rita where ever you are.
As weeks and months went by, we were written up in various magazines and newspapers. We never really had to advertise. During special times, holidays, I would put an ad in the Journal or Neighbor Newspapers. Luckily we hit the market at the right time for our concept to survive. We really didn't have our own lives anymore. This was like raising another baby……. as my mother was raising mine.
We lived to work. We were young enough that the hours didn't get us down. I was there before the sun was up doing the daily sales report and left to pick up my son after dark at 10:30 each night. The days just seemed to fly by. You were busy from 11 AM until around 2 PM, had a slow period until about 3:30 and then the fun began again. Disco was in so the music was up beat and happy. Ten o'clock would be there in no time. I loved the rush. I loved being busy. Running food, busing tables, happy customers, mad customers, complaints, employee problems, kitchen walkouts, running, running, running. It was fun. Your life flew by. Of course I did eventually crash and the smell of eggs benedict didn't help either.
We had our celebrations at the store. We would have Halloween costume contests and New Years parties for customer participation, special music on Saint Patrick's Day, Roses on Mothers Day, specials on Fathers day. I hoped that our customers felt as though Applebee's belong to them, their special place to meet their friends or make new ones. It was a great time…. in my life.
We added on to the store with a greenhouse to the side. We were the first to add this to a restaurant but another restaurant concept has been given credit as first to this idea. This was all Bill's idea and it went over well. Business kept increasing. The fact that we both put a lot of time and work into the operation, I believe, contributed to our success. We didn't walk away from it. We didn't take time off. We couldn't. By this time Frank Wood had left us and we had a part time manager, Jack Carey. I was working days and Bill was working nights until June 30, 1981. At that time Michael Baldwin came to work in my place as a manager. He brought real personality to Applebee's. (He had stayed on with "Billy's" until he was sure we would survive.) He was the life of the party. When he joined us, I had the chance to be home with my son, Shawn, and organize the office, which eventually took over the whole house.
We opened the second Applebee's at the corner of Buford Highway and North Druid Hills Road. The location was also an old Judy's building that we remodeled. Luckily again, the business did well. Bill managed this location while I managed Memorial Drive. I kept our number one store going while he remodeled and opened our second location. We hired our first female manager to work with Michael Baldwin and Jack Carey at Memorial Drive. Once again I went back to an office job. Then I managed public relations, customer relations, employee relations, and all money relations and it was fun!!