Shakespeare, the immortal bard, once pondered, “What’s in a name?” For Dine Brands Global, formerly DineEquity, the answer is about $28 per share of value. That was the surge in share prices, to $76, seen after the company announced its grand new strategy and a brand new name.
But a name doesn’t really change the smell, does it? While Dine Brands Global beat some low earnings per share expectations, it’s not exactly thriving. Revenue sank more than $25 million in 2017 and the brand announced it would close another 90 to 120 restaurants that dragged same-store sales down 5.3 percent at Applebee’s and sank sister company IHOP by 1.9 percent.
The company also said it was building 80 new international restaurants with 200 more on the way, but it’s not really an international operator. Just more than 150 Applebee’s locations are outside the U.S while IHOP has just over 70.
Investors, however, saw that as a smart pivot. And they were especially keen on the talk of an acquisition that has been a big value driver across the industry during this sluggish time for sales and traffic.
But the company has been down this path before. Back in the 1990s, then just Applebee’s was pushed by similar investor fervor to buy a second brand and take part in the glorious multi-brand wave. It bought Rio Bravo for $66 million. The brand didn’t work under the new ownership and was sold five years later for $53 million.
Certainly, the brand is older and wiser, but it is by no means in a position of strength and since becoming a 100 percent franchised brand it doesn’t have many tricks left.
So why will this strategy work 30 years later as Dine Brands Global continues to shutter dozens of underperforming restaurants and struggles to find a cohesive strategy? You’ll have to ask those eager investors.