5 major restaurant chains that started in Atlanta

Teena Hammonds snaps a photo of a pixelated image of the original building comprised of photographs of 2,568 Chick-fil-A locations, on one of the walls inside the newly renovated Dwarf House, the first of Truett Cathey’s restaurants, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Hapeville. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

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.

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

John White IV, grandson of S. Truett Cathy, sits beside a statue of his grandfather during a break from giving a tour of the newly renovated Dwarf House, the first of Truett Cathey’s restaurants. The original building was only 512 square feet, which is why Cathy called it Dwarf House, while the new renovation expands it to 10,643 square feet while preserving much of it's past. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`
Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

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.

There are five S. Truett Cathy Brand specialty locations that can be found throughout Georgia and offer specialty menu items such as hamburgers at the original Hapeville Dwarf House and the Truett’s Luau which contains a southern take on Hawaiian-inspired menu items.

2. Waffle House: Avondale Estates, 1955

The first Waffle House started at 2719 East College Ave. Founder Joe Rogers Sr. wanted to marry fast food and fast service around the clock. Today, the Waffle House system has more than 1,900 locations in 25 states, all open 24/7. The restaurant system is so well-known for remaining opening that officials are known to use the status of it’s operations to gauge the level of damage after emergencies.

The chain is currently headquartered in Norcross.

Mellow Mushroom Pizza (Credit: Catherine Sorto)
Catherine Sorto, Access Atlanta

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 18 states.

The original Moe’s is a yellow building in Buckhead marked by a large sign proclaiming it “the very first Moe’s on earth.” (File Photo)
File Photo, Access Atlanta

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.” Moe’s stands for “Musicians, Outlaws and Entertainers.” The pop culture- and celebrity-obsessed chain has grown quickly from its Atlanta roots to have 682 locations in 40 states.

Applebee's (Credit: Catherine Sorto)
Catherine Sorto, Access Atlanta

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.

Next:3 places to take aerial fitness classes in Atlanta
A regular workout routine can get boring for even the most dedicated …