Food for Thought: Where Did Your Favorite Fast Food Restaurant Get Its Name?

Feb 29, 2016 05:00 AM EST | By Florence May P. Jose

The name, as well as the branding, are important in any business especially when you want to tackle the fast food industry.

Think about this; would you be intrigued to try the flavors of a new restaurant if its name is not appealing, has no charm and is boring? We guess not.

So, having said that, did you know how your favorite fast food chains got theirs? What's the story behind the names and who said it was the perfect fit?

Of course, our list doesn't include McDonald's, Wendy's and Jimmy John's which are all named after their founders.


Did you know that your favorite coffee chain could have been named "Pee-Quod"? Thank god, they changed it.

Getting its name from the same book would have called Starbucks the name of the first mate in the classic novel 'Moby Dick'.

According to Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker, the company's founders began looking into names that started with "st" after Terry Heckler, founder of ad agency Heckler Associates, mentioned that words beginning with "st" were powerful.

"Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo," Bowker told the Seattle Times. "As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville's first mate [named Starbuck] in 'Moby-Dick'."

Today, Starbucks' website says its name "evoked the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders."


Lucky for those who speak, read and understand Latin, having to decode the origins of the name "Panera" is no challenge.

The company was originally called St. Louis Bread in 1998. However, founder Ron Shaich has changed it to its name today following the literal meaning "breadbasket."

Afterward, the name Panera was adopted by the French language and was given the translation "the place of good bread." by owner Au Bon Pain.


No, Little Caesars is not owned by a little man named Caesar, well, not exactly. In fact, their founders, Mike and Marian Ilitch originally considered calling the restaurant 'Pizza Treat' but decided to change it after Marian thought the name was "too generic". 

Being married for four years before launching the pizza chain, Marian has always believed that her spouse will eventually be a pizza emperor, that's why she calls him "Little Caesar" as her term of endearment and pet name.

Mike is definitely not little at 5-foot-9!


Some people speculate that Arby came from the initials; R and B that came after their famous roast beef. Rumors said that people would always ask "Do you want some R.B?" and people mistook it for Arby.

As much as the story is cute and charming, owners said that their name came from Leroy and Forrest Raffel, the Raffel Brothers, or "RB," the chain says on its website.


Owners Dan and Frank Carney scored a deal when a local Coca-Cola distributor gave them a complimentary sign upon opening their first store. But, here is the catch; the layout of the sign is not really proportional; it was larger (in width) on top than at the bottom.

The top can fit the five letters of pizza perfectly but the lower portion allows only three. So what now? They thought of three letter words that made sense-Inn, Pad and then bingo! They picked Hut! Thanks to Dan's wife Beverly who said their building looks like a hut.


In case you didn't get it, it's a word play with fillet. Fillet-Fil-A. Get it? Try reading it with a British accent! Also, the company says that the"A" in their name also says the quality of their food and service.


The monumental root beer stand was originally called "Top Hat" but, someone has taken the name and got it trademarked, so founder Troy Smith had to think of another.

Basing on their existing tagline: "Service at the Speed of Sound," Smith decided that Sonic fits their store perfectly. The first official Sonic drive-in opened in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1959.

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