On the heels of IHOP announcing its fast-casual concept Flip’d, sister brand Applebee's has opened Applebee's Express. The fast-casual restaurant quietly opened in mid-December in Mobile, Ala.. Both brands are owned by Glendale, Calif.-based Dine Brands Global, Inc., which has expressed interest in acquiring a fast-casual brand in the past.
The Applebee's Express is about half the size of a typical Applebee's restaurant at 2,500 square feet. The location will focus on to-go and delivery orders, although it will have seating for about 70 people. For the first location, the brand worked with Quality Restaurant Concepts, which owns about 60 Applebee’s throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.
"We're excited to bring Applebee's back to the Mobile neighborhood, and to offer the community the chance to enjoy our great quality and fresh food with the speed and convenience of a fast-casual restaurant," said Rick Houser, VP of operations at Quality Restaurant Concepts, in a statement. "We've been working closely with the Applebee's team to bring this first-of-a-kind restaurant to life for our brand and look forward to serving our new neighbors."
Scott Gladstone, vice president of strategy, off-premise and development at Applebee's, sees Express as a way to be where their customers need them.
"We are meeting the needs of our guests with busy lifestyles who crave the Applebee’s food they know and love but don't have the time for a traditional dine-in experience," he said. "This is just another way Applebee's is reaching its guests, with to-go, delivery and dine-in counter service, all in one space."
The paired down menu will include burgers, wings, pasta items and the brand's riblets. There are also soda and beer selections. Dine-in customers can order via counter service.
The setup is similar to a non-traditional Applebee's such as one at an airport, but the brand emphasized that Applebee’s Express is the brand's first fast-casual location. Applebee’s has about 1,800 locations worldwide.
The brand believes that this new concept will appeal to both consumers and franchisees.
"Applebee's Express is part of Applebee's strategic development initiative, exploring ways the brand can extend the dining experience beyond the traditional restaurant to meet the evolving needs of guests," said Gladstone. "Also, we believe Express may offer an additional compelling investment opportunity for our franchisees to deploy the Applebee's brand with a lower capital requirement."
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