"We Need to sell"
For some reason, Bill wanted to sell. He kept repeating to me "The big guy is going to squeeze the little guy out. We need to sell". I asked why we couldn't franchise and he replied it would cost $100,000.00, which we didn't have. He showed no desire to continue on our own. I don't think he really thought about what he was about to do or what the cost would be. I always supported what ever decision he made. I didn't think he enjoyed working for other people or companies but I guess I was wrong.
Wally Doolin, a previous partner in" Billy's", had become a scout for Peter Grace searching for new restaurant concepts to purchase. He convinced Peter Grace to consider Applebee's. In May 1983, we sold to W. R. Grace and Co., keeping the rights to the Atlanta area territory and the right to 5 locations with no royalty fees. (As Founder's, we also kept the right to eat at any parent company owned Applebee's for life.) Our concept was now sold as a franchise in the US. Little did we know that Applebee's would become another American Great as Coca Cola or Delta Airlines. Applebee's was grouped with another Grace owned restaurant concept, Del Taco, to form the new company "Creative Food and Fun". Grace kept Bill Palmer on as President of the Applebee's Division. Several Applebee's locations were opened around Atlanta. In late '84 Bill complained to me that they wouldn't let him make decisions. He had become more or less a figure head. Again, I suggested to him to quit. In 1985 Grace sold to two franchisees located in Kansas City. The new company was called Applebee's International. At this point Bill resigned with Grace and we became franchisees of our own concept.
With 5 partners, Café Ventures was formed and opened five locations between 1985 and 1988. I became involved with Cafe Ventures when difficulties arose with payroll and payables. The office was operated by the partners in Texas. I relocated and reorganized the office in August of 1985. In 1989 Bill and I formed Apple Restaurants, Inc. with each of us owning fifty percent. We had opened 22 locations by 1998.
The Franchise agreement with International required two locations a year be opened. Due to many other motivated and determined franchisees our concept spread across the US. Apple South, Inc., with Tom Dupree, became one of the fastest growing Franchisees in Applebee's history. Apple South consisted of 264 locations. Apple South is now Avado Brands. Tom Dupree sold his locations and is no longer a Franchisee.
Note: Bill Palmer became a Franchisee when we began Cafe Ventures, Inc. which owned five locations. He had two other partners in this company. TJ Palmer became a Franchisee when she and Bill Palmer began Apple Restaurants, Inc. in 1989. This company owned 21 locations by the end of 1998. Even though TJ Palmer was a 50% owner, she didn't start signing Franchise agreements with International until 1992. (You just don't ask questions. In late 1995, TJ had her assistant call to question why TJ wasn't listed as a franchisee in the directory published by Applebee's International and requested that she be listed under Apple Restaurants, Inc)
The Applebee's concept is definitely not as it began in 1980. It began as a meeting place with friends for drinks and then on to their destination. Today Applebee's is the destination place and it is more child friendly. Applebee's has become a well-respected family restaurant welcoming all age groups. The Applebee's menu is much more complex and diversified. There are specials and new items added often including special menu items for children. Some items have become real favorites such as Applebee's Riblets.
According to Bill, we as Franchisees, had the right to have 5 items on the menu that was not on the International menu. In 1987 our first District Manager with Cafe Ventures, David Jarrett brought the now famous "Riblets" to our attention. He located enough to supply our four locations (existing at the time) and negotiated such a good price that we couldn't refuse. Unlike Quail, they are still on the menu today, nation wide. These were a hot Chinese restaurant menu item. Bill told me that David had located and been offer a box car load of these minature ribs. This became one of our best selling items. I believe David also came up with the name "riblets".