Applebees 2023

Jun 26, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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Executive Summary

Applebee’s is the second largest player in the casual dining segment behind Olive Garden with an emphasis around comfort food, adequate plate coverage and moderate prices that is well suited to its guests in local neighborhoods nationwide which is a function of the system’s geographic orientation towards smaller markets with less population/competition and the suburbs. “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” Grill + Bar brand positioning is based upon: a comfortable, all-American atmosphere with great tasting food & a prominent bar area which provides energy for diners; menu items you can pronounce and which are broadly appealing & mainstream and made with craveable American recipes/flavors; abundant value; decorating cues tied to individual neighborhoods; and appeal as a place to connect with family & friends. Applebee’s leads the casual dining category in convenience, affordability (permanent 2 for $25/$27/$30 value platform drives substantial mix), variety, family-friendly, team engagement and great place to work rankings. 23.1% off-premise sales mix was driven by 11% from Carside To-Go and 12% from delivery during 1Q23 and operational efforts to improve customer access include: a website & app update which integrates AI; installation of pickup windows when possible; lockers for order pickup & new shelving for to-go orders; the addition of a call center; and the addition of geofencing tech to alert the kitchen about when to start pick-up orders. 1Q23 system comps increased +6.1% y/y, marking the chain’s ninth straight positive quarter, driven by successful LTO menu innovation and abundant value programs. However, while the brand is well positioned in terms of FSR value, current economic/inflationary conditions & past menu price increases continue to pressure the brand’s core lower-income demo (although this is at least partially offset by a higher income demo trading down into Applebee’s). Further, depressed unit level profitability reflects system worst COGs driven by +18% 2022 food inflation, which was only partially offset by last year’s high-single-digits menu price increases. It is also notable that the system’s net unit count declined -18% over the last 7 years. In conclusion, while Applebee’s is well positioned around its solid strategy and execution, unit level profit pressure is likely to remain until an economic rebound provides some relief to the chain’s core value customer.

Applebee's Market Share Graph

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