Applebee’s Employees Spill Secrets We Never Would Have Guessed

August 09, 2019

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar is known for its two-for-$20 meal deals, late-night appetizers, and cheap cocktails. What’s not to love, right?

When I was younger, I would beg my mom to take me to Applebee’s so I could scarf down mozzarella sticks before devouring an entire basket of honey barbeque boneless chicken wings. (Not going to lie, I still love those. Who doesn’t?) I even had a favorite server named Diana — she used to tell the table (which was usually me, my mom, my sister, and my grandma), “Hey, I’m Diana from Indiana.”

But now, after doing a bit of research (aka browsing on Reddit), I’m not so sure I’ll be visiting the restaurant anytime soon, if ever again. Here are 15 Applebee’s employee secrets you should probably know about and keep in mind next time you’re taking a trip to Applebee’s.

1. Applebee’s original name was T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs. 

The first location opened in 1980. 

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar was originally called Bill and TJ Palmer open T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixir (that’s a mouthful!) after the chain’s founders. The Palmers opened their first location on November 19th, 1980, in Decatur, Georgia. The name wasn’t changed until 1986.

2. Club Applebee’s is a thing. 

And it’s definitely not family-friendly. 

This is a bit disturbing. Applebee’s transforms into Club Bee’s Late Night — an actual nightclub that encourages women to dance on the bar “covered in whip cream” until 2 a.m. In 2012, Business Insider wrote an expose on the ridiculousness that is Applebee’s after 10 p.m. and the photos aren’t pretty.

3. Almost everything is microwaved. 

Sigh. 

Unfortunately, the majority of the food at Applebee’s is, in fact, microwaved. What’s worse? Some (very unsanitary) Applebee’s locations prep food for the week! Could you imagine your server handing you something that’s been sitting in the fridge or freezer all week?

“I’ll give you an answer no one will, the amount of food cooked in a microwave is pretty high,” Applebuddy219 writes. “However, we prep food that morning for the day and then heat it up in the microwave for your meal. I have heard stories about other Applebee’s prepping items for the week, but we don’t do that here.”

4. It’s fairly easy to receive a refund. 

As long as your complaint isn’t too outrageous. (We’re looking at you, Ricky Bobby.)

Apparently, it’s pretty simple getting a refund at most Applebee’s locations. If you’re unhappy with your food or service, just flag down your server.

“I’ve been a part of a crew that was struggling to get appetizers out before meals, and struggling to get dishes out before the hour mark,” Applebuddy219 writes. “You have every right to be upset. If I was eating at a restaurant, I would be.”

5. Applebee’s goes through a surprising amount of ranch dressing. 

Like, three-to-four cases per week. 

While the kitchen staff doesn’t handle the ranch dressing, Sebastianc2012 says the restaurant goes through tons of the stuff. The saddest part? Nearly 20 percent of it is wasted thanks to customers who order it but forget to actually use it.

“I’d say we go through three-to-four cases, that each has eight bags, and each bag can refill a regular household sized 16oz bottle probably six-to-seven times,” Sebastianc2012 writes.

6. There might be plastic in certain side items. 

Don’t order the broccoli. 

In the book “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table,” author and reporter Tracie McMillan spills a few telling secrets, including what she will and will not eat at Applebee’s.

McMillan went undercover working as a line cook to see how the American food system really works and what she found was disappointing, to say the least.

“Cooks would give me a tray of mashed potatoes that were two days over their expiration date and they’d ask me to reheat them so they could use them,” McMillan tells Business Insider. “I would turn to the guy training me and ask, ‘Isn’t that gross?’ and he said, ‘You’re going to see a lot of things here.'”

In addition to reheating rotten potatoes, McMillan said the proportioning for sides is done in advance. Broccoli, for example, comes pre-cut and bagged.

“You don’t take the broccoli out of the bag until just before it goes out, because it will start congealing and looking weird, so my job as an expediter was to dump it on the plate,” McMillan adds. “The plastic is flaking over everything because it’s been subjected to this heat. So you’re sending out these sides that have little flakes of plastic stuck on them. If I were a diner, I would think that it was salt.”

7. The Under-550 Calorie menu is a lie.

The items are loaded with fat and salt.

According to Reddit user, ApplebeesWageslave, the “Under-550 Calorie” menu is filled with unhealthy options.

“Only half the items are actually 550 calories or less,” ApplebeesWageslave writes. “The rest are scored using the Weight Watchers’ point system, so they have [a] higher calorie content. In my experience, very few people actually read a menu other than looking at a picture so everyone is under the impression that they are all under 550 calories even tho it says in the fine print that they aren’t.”

8. If you’re looking for the healthiest option on the menu, order the grilled chicken breast. 

Health nuts (and a few Applebee’s fans on Twitter) swear by it. 

Although this former Applebee’s employee says he doesn’t eat at work often, he says his healthy-ish go-to is the Grilled Chicken Breast. Which makes sense, considering it’s served with a side of broccoli. Unlike the monstrosity that is the Oriental Chicken Salad, this meal will only set you back 190 calories.

“I’m a health nut, so I don’t eat at work a lot, but when I do I spring for the Grilled Chicken Breast,” Applebuddy219 writes. “It usually depends on who’s on the grill though. Some guys cook dry chicken. Nothing is worse than when chicken acts like turkey.”

9. Applebee’s has a late-night happy hour, so you can score half-price apps. 

Bonus: You can get $1 Mai Tais the entire month of August. 

Most Applebee’s locations offer half-price appetizers after 9 p.m. on weekdays and after 10 p.m. on weekends. Some locations may have a late-afternoon happy hour, but you should contact your local hub to find out the specifics.

In addition to half-priced apps, every day through August 31st, 2019, Applebee’s customers can snag a 10 oz. Mai Tai cocktail (made with rum, pineapple, passion fruit, black cherry, lime, and orange flavors) for just $1.

10. The Four Cheese Mac N Cheese With Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders is a crowd favorite. 

It’s the perfect combo of sweet and spicy. 

Made with four different kinds of cheese (we can’t seem to figure out which ones…), penne pasta, applewood-smoked bacon, and crispy chicken tenders tossed in honey pepper sauce, the Four Cheese Mac N Cheese With Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders is Applebee’s sweet-and-savory take on one of our childhood favorites.

I’ve never had this meal, but it looks tasty. It’s also pretty popular on Reddit.

“The alfredo they use has a bit of spice to it and bacon in it and the honey pepper glaze on top of the chicken tenders makes it a little sweet too, which is actually a good contrast,” ApplebeesWageslave writes.

11. If you send a steak back, it’s definitely going back on the grill. 

As it should.

According to Reddit user Sebastianc2012, who’s a former Applebee’s line cook, he’s never seen a steak go in the microwave.

“In the entire time I’ve worked at this Applebees I have never once seen a steak go in the microwave,” Sebastianc2012 writes. “It’s in undercooked, It normally goes back on the grill for a short period of time, then sent back out.”

That’s reassuring, right?

12. The “Riblets” are questionable

Applebee’s Riblets come to the restaurant pre-cooked and packaged in an airtight bag. 

Riblets returned to the Applebee’s menu in January 2018 as part of an “all-you-can-eat” promotion. For $12.99, customers could order one 12 oz. serving of rib tips with a side of fries and dipping sauce. As if that wasn’t enough “meat” (what is it made of tho?), customers could get as many additional six-ounce servings as their little heart desired. Now, Applebee’s has upped the ante (and the price) by adding tenders and shrimp to the all-you-can-eat deal.

If you can stomach the fact that the Riblets come pre-packaged in a mystery sauce, then have at it.

“One thing I just don’t like the thought of is the Riblets,” Sebastianc2012 writes. “It’s the only meat that we get that isn’t straight raw, and that we don’t cook ourselves. They come in a big airtight bag, that has some kind of sauce in it… No idea what’s in the sauce, but it doesn’t look good at all. Would definitely recommend Ribs over Riblets any day.”

13. At some locations, co-workers are referred to as “Apple Buddies.”

I mean, it’s kind of cute, right?

Usually, you’d refer to your co-workers as, well, co-workers. Charlotte in sales, Jess in accounting, and so on. But at Applebee’s, co-workers are referred to as “Apple Buddies.”

The term is so trendy, even the Urban Dictionary has an entry for it. Even so, the actual employees aren’t too fond of the nickname.

14. The Potato Twisters are really good. 

But they’re no longer on the menu. 

I’ve had my fair share of late-night trips to Applebee’s, but I’ve never heard of Potato Twisters. From what I’ve gathered, they’re like chips (thinly sliced potatoes that have been twisted, baked, and seasoned with a chipotle lime seasoning) and served with warm queso dip.

People loved the app so much that there are hundreds of copycat recipes for DIY Potato Twisters online.

15. Applebee’s is owned by IHOP. 

In 2007, DineEquity bought the chain for $2.1 billion. 

IHOP agreed to buy Applebee’s for a pretty penny on July 16, 2007. After the buyout, IHOP Corp. changed its name to DineEquity, Inc. Today, the company is known as Dine Brands Global.