Private-investment firm Argonne Capital Group LLC has purchased 40 Applebee’s restaurants in the Atlanta area from Apple Restaurants Inc., a franchise group operated by Applebee’s founder Bill Palmer, Argonne officials said Friday.
Atlanta-based Argonne, which last year founded franchise group Neighborhood Restaurant Partners LLC, will retain Palmer as the group’s chief executive.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Argonne, through affiliates, is also the largest franchisee of IHOP restaurants. DineEquity Inc. owns both the Applebee’s and IHOP brands.
In December 2010, Neighborhood Restaurant Partners purchased eight franchised Applebee’s locations in Texas, along with development rights for the region.
At the time, Argonne said it had sights set on growing Applebee’s, as well as IHOP.
With this latest deal, Neighborhood Restaurant Partners will franchise a total of 48 Applebee’s units. Combined Applebee’s and IHOP holdings for Argonne affiliates will total nearly 300 units.
Based in Glendale, Calif., DineEquity operated and franchised 2,011 Applebee’s locations at the end of 2011’s second quarter, as well as 1,512 IHOP restaurants, which are almost all franchised.
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Bringing back the brand
Palmer said DineEquity’s efforts to revitalize the Applebee’s brand in recent years are taking hold.
“After 30 plus years, I am still extremely passionate about the Applebee’s brand,” Palmer said in a statement. “Current initiatives in both facility and product development will energize the concept to achieve a new level of prominence in the marketplace.”
Palmer added that Neighborhood Restaurant Partners would continue to expand “through ground-up development and new acquisitions.”
Julia Stewart, DineEquity chairman and chief executive, said: “Today’s announcement serves as confirmation of our franchise community’s confidence in our efforts to revitalize Applebee’s and the strength of the brand.
“We are thrilled, not only at the growth of Neighborhood Restaurant Partners, but that we will continue to benefit from Bill’s involvement in the brand,” she said.
Since acquiring Applebee’s in 2007, DineEquity has refranchised corporate locations, with the goal of becoming 95 percent franchised by early 2012.
Earlier this week, the company announced an agreement to sell 17 corporate locations to a franchisee for nearly $16 million. When that and other pending deals are closed, company officials said they will have reached their goal of being 95-percent franchised.