Two of franchising’s strongest female leaders are retiring from very different companies. Cheryl Bachelder and Julia Stewart presided over two major brands, Popeyes Louisiana Chicken (NASDAQ: PLKI) and DineEquity (NYSE: DIN) respectively.
Cheryl is leaving on top. She oversaw the addition of more than 1,000 locations since she took the reins as CEO in 2007 by focusing on franchisees as a “servant leader.”
“Franchisees are our No. 1 responsibility. When we serve them well, our shareholders benefit,” Bachelder told Mad Money’s Jim Cramer in 2012. Over the past 10 years, the stock price grew nearly 400 percent.
Bachelder also negotiated the sale of Popeyes to Restaurant Brands International (the parent of Burger King and Tim Horton’s) for a historic 21 times trailing EBITDA or $79 per share, the highest multiple ever paid for a public restaurant company according to Bloomberg.
While Stewart isn’t exactly sneaking out the back door, she leaves DineEquity with Applebee’s in turmoil; it’s without a brand president and suffering dismal same store sales. They were down 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 and down 5 percent for the full year.
That said, Stewart had been with the company since 2002, overseeing the takeover of Applebee’s in 2007 and the refranchising of both brands. Her measured, data-driven approach brought many positive changes to Applebee’s and IHOP as activist investors banged on the door.
Shareholders were happy, but the casual diner suffered traffic declines for years. And a recent pivot in the form of a wood fire grill concept was not appreciated by franchisees, and customers saw the value proposition go up in flames. Now, despite all her successes, Stewart leaves the position under an unfortunate cloud.