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An Applebee's in Griffin, Georgia
|Founded||November 19, 1980 (1980-11-19)
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.
T. J. Palmer
Number of locations
|1,787 (December 31, 2019)|
|United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates|
|John Cywinski (President) Stephen Bulgarelli
(Chief Culinary Officer)
Number of employees
|Parent||Dine Brands Global
Applebee's is an American company which develops, franchises, and operates the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar restaurant chain. The Applebee's concept focuses on casual dining, with mainstream American dishes such as salads, chicken, pasta, burgers, and "riblets" (which is considered Applebee's signature dish). All Applebee's restaurants feature a bar area and serve alcoholic beverages (except where prohibited by law).
1980-2006: Founding and going public
The Applebee's chain was founded by Bill and T. J. Palmer in 1980. The vision that they wanted was "to create a restaurant that had a neighborhood pub feel to it and could offer friendly service along with quality fare at a lower price than most of their competition." The name they thought of to suit their concept was Appleby, but found that it had already been registered. They also considered "Cinnamon's" and "Pepper's" before arriving to Applebee's.  They opened their first location in Decatur, Georgia, at the time named T.J. Applebee's Rx for Edibles & Elixirs. They opened a second location outside of Atlanta, Georgia a few years later, and sold the company to W. R. Grace and Company in 1983. As part of the transaction, Bill Palmer was named president of the Applebee's Division, an indirect subsidiary of W. R. Grace and Company. In that capacity, Palmer guided the operation from its entrepreneurial beginnings to a full-fledged franchise system. He became an Applebee's franchisee in 1985.
In 1986, the name of the concept was changed to Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar. In 1988, Applebee's International, Inc., became the restaurant chain's franchiser when Kansas City franchisees Abe Gustin and John Hamra purchased the rights to the Applebee's concept from W. R. Grace. In 1989, Applebee's opened their 100th restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee.
In the 1990s, Applebee's became one of the largest sit-down restaurant chains in the United States, and began trading publicly in November 1991. In 1998, Applebee's opened its 1000th restaurant.
2007-present: Acquisition by IHOP
On July 16, 2007, IHOP Corp. announced that it agreed to buy Applebee's International for about $2.1 billion. Applebee's shareholders would receive $25.50 in cash per share, representing a 4.6% premium to the closing price on July 13, 2007.
On November 29, 2007, IHOP (now DineEquity) announced that it had completed a $2 billion purchase of the Applebee's chain. After the acquisition, IHOP Corp. changed its name to DineEquity, Inc. With their merger in November 2007, Applebee's and IHOP combined to make the largest full-service restaurant company in the world, with more than 3,250 locations.
On August 11, 2017, DineEquity announced that Applebee's would close between 105 and 135 locations by the end of the year. Sales have decreased to 7% in the most recent quarter. As of December 31, 2019, there were 1,787 restaurants operating system-wide in the United States and 15 other countries, including 69 that are company owned and 1,718 that are franchised.
As part of the company's marketing campaign and slogan, Wanda Sykes was hired to voice the chain's new mascot, the Applebee's Apple. The character appears in commercials touting Applebee's various specials and stating the new slogan, "Together is good." or saying, "Get it together, baby!" as the slogan appears at the bottom right of the screen. A new campaign started on February 25, 2008, without Sykes' character (the spokesapple) with its slogan, "It's a whole new neighborhood." The commercials used both the company's original and new logos. In 2009, Applebee's changed its slogan again to "There's no place like the neighborhood."
In late September 2017, Applebee's brought back its most famous slogan from the early-to-mid 2000s, "Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood." They also engaged in an alcohol–based advertising campaign to attract new customers by having a "drink of the month" at a reduced price.
In October 2017 Applebee's added the 'Dollarita' to their menu, of which CEO of parent company Dine Brands, Steve Joyce, has claimed to be a major change for Applebee's. He said, “Dollarita turned everything around, it was a 13-point swing between September and October in Applebee’s performance.” After introducing the dollar drink deal Applebee's has had four consecutive quarters of growth after struggling to grow sales.
Since 2006, Applebee's and its servers have been engaged in a lawsuit over hourly wages. The servers, who received a federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour as tipped employees, allege that the company requires them to spend 20% of their time doing non-serving labor, for which they should be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The case has gone through several stages, including a judicially mandated binding arbitration session.
In September 2012, a judge in Illinois ruled in favor of the Applebee's employees and will evaluate damages at a later date.
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