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Restaurant Names That Inspire

Many Famous Restaurant Names Have a Story Behind Them

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Night view through window of customers in diner
ML Harris/ Stone/ Getty Images
What’s in a Name? Well, a great deal when it comes to restaurants. Naming a restaurant is like naming a child. You want it to be perfect. Here are some famous restaurant names to help get you started.

The Bag Lady - Savannah, Georgia

Before Paula Deen became the Southern Belle of the Food Network, she was known as the Bag Lady. Or at least that was what her catering business was originally called. She began her career her selling little bagged lunches to local offices in Savannah. Paula’s first restaurant was christened The Lady. When she expanded into a new location in downtown Savannah and her two sons stepped up to help her out, she called the new place The Lady & Sons.

Chez Panisse Café – Berkley, California

Chez Panisse is known as the birthplace of modern California cuisine and helped start a movement for restaurants to use fresh, local ingredients. Co-founder Alice Waters, named the café after a character in a film trilogy by Marcel Pagnol (who was a French novelist, playwright and film maker). Chez Panisse is a restaurant legend and was number 20 on Restaurant Magazine’s Best Restaurants in the World!

The French Laundry - Napa Valley, California

The French Laundry, in Napa Valley, California is one of the countries most esteemed restaurants. Its name stems from the fact the restaurant building once housed a French steam laundry during the 19th century. The building was also once a brothel, but the restaurant owners wisely stayed away from incorporating that name.

Spago - Los Angeles, California

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck called his earliest restaurant Spago, which is Italian slang for spaghetti. Little in the name would tell you that it serves a fusion of Mediterranean and California cuisine, with a specialty in wood-fired pizzas. It’s just a great restaurant name.

Popular Chain Names

McDonalds

The McDonald brothers founded the original restaurant in California in 1940. Businessmen Ray Kroc bought a McDonalds franchise in Illinois in 1955 and later purchased the entire corporation. He wisely kept the name. After all, would you want to eat a Big Kroc?

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut goes back to Wichita, Kansas in 1958. Pizza Hut founders Dan and Frank Carney chose the name in the simplest way- money. Or lack of. They wanted a name that was short, to make the price of the sign cheaper. Do you think it would have been as successful as Pizza Inn?

Starbucks

According to Gordon Bowker, the name Starbucks was inspired by an old mining camp in the Cascades, called Starbo. The name Starbo led Bowker to think of the first mate in Moby Dick (naturally, whales and coffee go hand in hand), who was named Starbuck. And Viola! Starbucks was born. Bowker also says that the coffeehouse giant was almost christened Cargo House. It sounds more like a pants store.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s first opened it doors in 1969, in Dublin Ohio. Founder Dave Thomas named the burger chain after his daughter, who was nicknamed Wendy. (Her real name was Melinda, but she pronounced it Winda.) The spunky red head mascot of Wendy’s is also based on Dave’s daughter, Melinda.

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