The potential remedies Applebee’s parent DineEquity intends to pursue in hopes of reviving the troubled casual-dining chain are as extensive as the list of problems interim CEO Richard Dahl listed during his conference call with analysts.
Nothing, he suggested, is off the table. “This encompasses a deep dive into our approach to culinary, testing, and marketing,” the longtime director said.
Here’s the focus of the fix-it plan:
Throw a lifesaver to troubled franchisees
“Assistance can take several forms, depending on the situation,” said Dahl. He specifically mentioned a likelihood of stores being closed and having a $10 million kitty to tap for financial assistance. Management said it expects to close between 40 and 60 stores, after closing 46 in 2016.
Hire an Applebee’s president as well as a DineEquity CEO
Under CEO Julia Stewart, who stepped down on Wednesday, those positions were combined. “Having an Applebee’s president overrides the necessity of the CEO search,” said Dahl.
He explained, “We are very close to having an individual in place for the Applebee’s presidency.”
Make the food better*
“We are making investments to improve food quality,” said Dahl. The asterisk is that value will be one of the key considerations in updating the menu, a matter of less importance in Applebee’s prior upgrade effort, the installation of grills and the adoption of upgraded entrees and vegetable sides. “Remember, value is not just about the price,” he added, cryptically.
Complementing the effort is a commitment to testing more effectively. Dahl noted that the wood-fired grills initiative looked good on paper, but didn’t engage customers.
Simultaneously, the brand intends to simplify kitchen operations.
Extending the edges
The brand’s perception provides an opportunity to generate more traffic during traditional happy hours and late at night, Dahl asserted. It is also testing ways of landing more off-premise traffic.
Upgrading Applebee’s marketing
A search is underway for a new advertising agency. The focus of marketing for the remainder of 2017 will be on new menu items and value, Dahl said.
The overall objective, he added, is to boost the frequency of customers’ visits.