Greg Flynn expands his Applebee’s empire

Flynn, already the world’s largest franchisee of the casual-dining chain, is acquiring 26 restaurants from an existing franchisee and is making plans to open 25 new locations by 2031.
Mega-franchisee Greg Flynn is expanding his relationship with Applebee's. | Photo: Shutterstock.

Greg Flynn, already the world’s largest Applebee’s franchisee, is expanding his casual-dining empire.

His Flynn Group recently signed an agreement with the chain to open 25 new locations over the next seven years. The Flynn Group on Monday also announced the completion of its acquisition of 26 Applebee’s restaurants in Florida and Georgia from longtime franchisee Doherty Enterprises.

The Flynn Group now owns and operates more than 450 Applebee’s restaurants in 23 states. And Flynn said he sees room for many more.

“Applebee’s has always been a special brand for us, as it has been for millions of guests throughout the country,” Flynn said in a statement. “There is untapped potential in markets across the U.S., and we look forward to continuing to do what we do best: Serving great food and delivering great experiences to our neighbors.”

Flynn is not only the world’s largest Applebee’s franchisee; he’s considered the world’s largest franchisee, period. His portfolio includes more than 2,600 restaurants such as Taco Bell, Panera Bread, Pizza Hut, Arby’s and Wendy’s, as well as a few dozen Planet Fitness gyms.

Flynn’s plan to open new Applebee’s locations, in new markets, signals a shift in development strategy for the 1,642-unit chain, one focused on net new unit openings.

“After 44 years as the neighborhood dining destination in America, this agreement reinforces the confidence in the Applebee’s brand from our largest franchisee … Flynn Group’s journey with Applebee’s began 25 years ago, and their leadership team, culture and focus on operational excellence is unparalleled,” Tony Moralejo, Applebee’s president, said in a statement. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with them and to bring Applebee’s to more neighborhoods across the U.S.”

Doherty Enterprises has been an Applebee’s franchisee for more than 30 years and currently operates 80 of the restaurants in New York and New Jersey. Employees of the franchisee’s former restaurants in Florida and Georgia have been offered jobs with Flynn Group, the company said.

Multiple media outlets reported in February that the Flynn Group was considering a sale, but Flynn denied those rumors in an interview the same month with Franchise Times, saying the company is not for sale and is not going anywhere.

Overall, Flynn’s restaurants generate about $4.5 billion in annual sales and employ about 75,000 people.

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