Applebee's and IHOP head to Japan—virtually

The brands will also make their debuts in France, Belgium and the Netherlands through a partnership with Franklin Junction, which matches brands with “host kitchens” that sell their food for delivery only.
Applebee's is expanding to new international markets as a purely digital entity. | Photo: Shutterstock

Applebee’s and IHOP are coming to Japan, the Netherlands, France and Belgium for the first time. But rather than open their own restaurants there, they will launch as delivery-only entities operated out of the kitchens of other restaurants.

The virtual expansion is being made possible through a partnership with Franklin Junction, a company that matches restaurant brands with “host kitchens” and provides the technology to support them.

Dine’s first virtual location with Franklin Junction is scheduled to open in Japan in the fourth quarter. It will add to a growing international footprint at both brands: At the end of last year, Applebee’s had 109 non-U.S. units, up from 102 the prior year, and IHOP had 104 compared to 94 in 2021.

"We are thrilled about this relationship with Franklin Junction, as it opens up new opportunities for IHOP and Applebee's in key international markets,” said Scott Gladstone, president, international and corporate development for Dine, in a statement. “We are confident in our ability to scale and deliver exceptional dining experiences to guests worldwide.” 

Franklin Junction has a network of “fulfillment partners” in North America, Europe and Asia. It uses a patented algorithm to pair brands looking to expand with host kitchens in those markets. It also provides ordering and payment, marketing, loyalty and other services. The host kitchen, virtual brand and Franklin Junction each take a cut of the revenue generated by the virtual brand.

The idea is to help host kitchens get incremental sales while helping brands expand to new markets with virtually no capital costs. 

The company was created by Aziz Hashim, founder of NRD Capital, the owner of Ruby Tuesday and Frisch’s Big Boy. NRD also owned Fuzzy’s Taco Shop before selling it to Dine earlier this year.

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