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With ‘Aggressive’ Approach, Applebee’s to Close 100-plus Locations


In the wake of a 6.2 percent same-store sales decline, Applebee’s forecasts the closure of up to 135 restaurants before the end of fiscal 2017.

The announcement came during parent company DineEquity’s second quarter earnings call with investors August 10, with John Cywinski, Applebee’s brand president, saying, “We will be aggressive on restaurant closures this year.” The company aims to identify older locations in areas “where once vibrant retail, residential and traffic characteristics are just no longer present,” Cywinski noted, along with restaurants that are underperforming “and perhaps even brand-damaging restaurants with unsustainable unit economics.”

“In either case, these restaurants need to close and perhaps should have closed long ago,” he added.

This most recent sales dip follows a first quarter same-store sales decline of 7.2 percent, and Cywinski, who came to Applebee’s in March after a stint with Chili’s parent Brinker International, said the brand’s “strategic missteps” in recent years are now being corrected. Those missteps include the attempted reinvention of Applebee’s as a modern bar and grill, “in overt pursuit of a more youthful and affluent demographic with a more independent or even sophisticated dining mindset, including a clear pendulum swing towards millennials.

“In my perspective,” continued Cywinski, “this pursuit led to decisions that created confusion among core guests, as Applebee’s intentionally drifted from its, what I’ll call its Middle America roots and its abundant value position. While we certainly hope to extend our reach, we can’t alienate boomers or Gen Xers in the process. Much of what we are currently unwinding at the moment is related to this … repositioning.”

Future marketing will focus on Applebee’s affordability and its appeal to value-seekers, along a push to reestablish off-premise dining as a growth area and to “reignite beverage innovation as a driver of incremental check and revenue.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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