Applebee’s reinvents itself once again

Applebee’s is declaring itself new and improved with advertising breaking this week that proclaims, “We’re changing things up and going back to what we do best.” In so doing it clearly hopes to lure Millennial diners and drinkers who frequent real bars and upscale burger joints.

“If you haven’t been in a while, come on back,” exhorts the TV spot from agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. “Because starting now, the Bar & Grill is back.”

What the brand always has done best is to glom onto culinary trends that already are well established elsewhere–if not worn out–and its new menu continues that tradition. Brisket nachos? They’re at Applebee’s now. Sweet potato fries? Got ‘em. Something with sriracha? Try new Sriracha Shrimp. Something with the word “pub” in it? Done. Enjoy your Brew Pub Pretzels and Beer-Cheese Dip. There are no local craft beers (just national brands) but there are new cocktails such as the Fireball Whiskey Lemonade. All safely on-trend.

Applebee’s has been Millennializing its menu over the past few weeks, adding new bar foods clearly intended to cause young adults to see Applebee’s as a hip place to drink and nosh in the evening. Lunch isn’t mentioned in the new advertising, nor are families. Most of the new items are small plates divided into three categories: Shareables, Pub Plates and Bar Snacks.

Shareables are items such as potstickers. Pub Plates are larger, including Sweet Chile Brisket Sliders and Kobe-Style Meatballs (since when is “Kobe” a style?). Bar Snacks include Double Crunch Bone-In Wings, the potstickers again, battered and fried Green Bean Crispers, Churro S’mores, soups and salads. What differentiates a Pub Plate from a Bar Snack isn’t really important because items from all three categories can be mixed and matched in a Build Your Sampler (any 2 for $8; 3 for $11).

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