Photo: John Phelan
Photo: John Phelan

5 major restaurant chains that started in Atlanta

Between its large population and thriving business environment, Atlanta is home to more restaurant chains than you might think. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, more food franchises are headquartered here than in any other city. 

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Many of these franchises are homegrown originals. These are five chains that grew from inside the perimeter to having restaurants in dozens of states. 

1. Chick-fil-A: Hapeville, 1946

Chick-fil-A traces its roots to the Dwarf Grill, a small restaurant located near a Ford plant. The plant has since been demolished, but Chick-fil-A has kept its original restaurant around, calling it the Dwarf House. 

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Eater pointed out that the Dwarf House serves menu items not seen in other restaurants from the chain, including chicken gravy, bacon with two slices of bread and cheese. 

2. Waffle House: Avondale Estates, 1955

The first Waffle House started at 2719 East College Ave. Its founder Joe Rogers Sr. wanted to marry fast food and fast service around the clock. 

The chain is currently headquartered in unincorporated Gwinnett County. 

3. Mellow Mushroom: Downtown Atlanta, 1974

The groovy pizza chain began when two Georgia Tech students and a University of Georgia student opened a pizzeria on Spring Street. They began franchising out the name in the late ’80s. The first franchise outside of Atlanta went to Athens before spreading to 16 states. 

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4. Moe’s Southwest Grill: Buckhead, 2000

The original Moe’s is a yellow building in Buckhead marked by a large sign proclaiming it “the very first Moe’s on earth.” The pop culture- and celebrity-obsessed chain has grown quickly from its Atlanta roots to have more than 600 locations in 38 states. 

Photo: John Phelan

5. Applebee’s: Decatur 1980

Bill and T.J. Palmer opened “T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs” in Decatur in 1980. They sold to W. R. Grace and Company in 1983 and got the chain together from there, baby.

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