It’s hard to imagine a world that wasn’t dominated by big fast food brands. For those of us brought up in the heyday of Maccy D’s, Domino’s delivery and Subway sandwiches, the idea of a high street without something cheap and greasy simply doesn’t bear thinking about.
But, before they went on to conquer the world, these business giants had extremely inauspicious beginnings. In some cases, the business didn’t even look at all like what it has turned into today. Here are seven famous restaurant chains that you didn’t realise have changed their name.
Despite being one of the most recognisable names in pizza, history tells us that there was a very real chance that Domino’s almost never came into being. In 1960, brothers James and Tom Monaghan bought a failing pizza business in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan for the princely sum of $500. The joint they inherited operated under the name DomiNick’s, after the previous owner. The name was only changed when the business tried to expand to new locations at the suggestion of a delivery driver.
First started in Louisiana in 1972, the original Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken wouldn’t go by that name until nearly five years later. Until 1976, the business was actually known as “Chicken on the Run”, but founder and owner Alvin C. Copeland Snr didn’t stop there. Over the last four decades, the famous fried chicken joint has been variously known as “Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken”, “Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken”, and “Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits”, before the current name was settled on in 2008.
You know you’ve made it as a brand when you only need three letters to tell the public exactly what you sell. However, before KFC conquered the world with a mystery combination of herbs and spices, they had to be a little more explicit with their branding. The business was known as “Kentucky Fried Chicken”, until a low key brand change in 1991. For many years, an urban myth persisted that the chain had been prosecuted for using mutant birds in their food, and so couldn’t legally use the term “chicken”, but this has since been debunked.
Long before they started employing spokespeople of morally dubious character, Subway went through a series of surprising name changes. After dropping out of medical school in 1965, friends Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck opened the first “Peter’s Super Submarine’s” in Milford Connecticut. Eventually, this nautical sounding name was changed to “Pete’s Subway”, before the founder lost any explicit mention in 1974.
For anyone unfamiliar with American pronunciation (I’ve been calling it “chick filler” for years), Chick-Fil-A is one of the more confusing fast food brands. But, before it was baffling anyone born outside of the United States, the fried chicken chain went by perhaps an even more perplexing name. “The Dwarf Grill”, on the outskirts of Atlanta, was the only branch of the business for more than 20 years, where it eventually became known as “The Dwarf House”. Quite what this had to do with chicken, we still aren’t sure.
The Starbucks original naming process was long and arduous. About the only thing that co-founder Gordon Bowker could agree on was that he wanted his business to start with a “st”, as this seemed incredibly powerful. Eventually, whilst looking at a map, he spied the small town of Starbo, and believed he had found the answer. But, before they printed all the napkins and had the signs made, Bowker remembered the character “Starbuck” from Moby Dick, and quickly changed his mind. Starbo doesn’t quite have the same appeal.
Business can change their name for all sorts of reasons, and it seems more than likely that many more of our favourites will do so before too long. One look back at some of these past ideas is all you need to tell you that sometimes change can be a good thing.