Applebee’s parent, DineEquity, announced on Thursday that it will close up to 135 restaurants by the end of the year, more than double the previous number announced.
No list was available of which stores will be shuttered; Lexington has three Applebee’s. A fourth Applebee’s on Richmond Road closed in 2016.
The more aggressive cutting comes as the chain plans to move away from targeting younger customers at the expense of “Middle America.”
The closures are due to poor performance as the chain tries to shore up its slumping sales. According the company’s second quarter earnings, same store sales were down 6.2 percent for the quarter. The company expects sales to be down 6 to 8 percent for the full year.
Applebee’s brand president John Cywinski told investors Thursday that the 105 to 135 restaurants “need to close and perhaps should have closed long ago.”
He said the closing stores will be older locations, where business has moved away; under-performing and brand-damaging “substandard” Applebee’s.”
Applebee’s has struggled to realign its image to appeal to millennials, which Cywinski indicated was a “misstep.” He said the chain will return to its roots and stop alienating Baby Boomers and Generation X diners.
“From my perspective ... this led to confusion among core guests,” he said. He said they would target “routine traditionalists” and value-seekers, both segments predisposed to like Applebee’s.
The chain expects to open 20 to 30 new Applebee’s, most of which will be overseas.
“We believe 2017 will be a transitional year for Applebee’s and we are making the necessary investments for overall long-term brand health and expect to see improvement over the next year,” said Richard J. Dahl, chairman and interim CEO of DineEquity Inc.