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applebees_3.jpg Photo courtesy of Applebee's
Flynn Group has signed an agreement to open 25 Applebee's locations in the U.S. in the next seven years.

Applebee’s net unit growth goal gets a vote of confidence from Flynn Group

Flynn Group and Applebee’s have signed a new agreement for Flynn to open 25 restaurants in the U.S. throughout the next seven years.

Applebee’s has closed about 300 locations throughout the past six years, shedding underperforming stores, including 25 to 35 fewer restaurants last year – more than initially anticipated. The company’s closures, however, are part of a long-term goal to eventually get back to net new unit growth and, today, it received a big vote of confidence to achieve that goal from the world’s largest franchisee.

Flynn Group and Applebee’s announced a new agreement for Flynn to open 25 restaurants in the U.S. throughout the next seven years. San Francisco-based Flynn Group has a long history with the chain, as it was founded in 1999 with eight Applebee’s units.

"After 44 years as the neighborhood dining destination in America, this agreement reinforces the confidence in the Applebee’s brand from our largest franchisee – and the largest franchise operator in the world – Flynn Group. Flynn Group’s journey with Applebee’s began 25 years ago, and their leadership team, culture, and focus on operational excellence is unparalleled. We’re excited to expand our partnership with them and to bring Applebee’s to more neighborhoods across the U.S.,” Applebee’s President Tony Moralejo said in a statement.

Additionally, Flynn has completed its acquisition of 26 Applebee’s restaurants in Florida and Georgia from longtime franchisee Doherty Enterprises. Team members in those restaurants have been extended job offers with Flynn Group to maintain consistency. With the acquisition, Flynn now operates more than 450 Applebee’s locations across 23 states. Doherty continues to own and operate 80 Applebee’s locations in New York and New Jersey.

"Applebee’s has always been a special brand for us, as it has been for millions of guests throughout the country. We feel the love and passion our guests have for Applebee’s every day, and we’re excited to continue building and growing with Applebee’s, as we have for the past two-and-a-half decades. There is untapped potential in markets across the U.S., and we look forward to continuing to do what we do best: serving great food and delivering great experiences to our neighbors,” Greg Flynn, founder and CEO of Flynn Group, said in a statement.  

Applebee’s, part of Dine Brands Global, has more than 1,600 locations in the U.S., two territories, and 11 countries. According to recently released Technomic Ignite data, the chain finished 2023 with about $4.4 billion in sales, essentially flat year-over-year. The company has put several marketing and menu pieces into place to rev up momentum toward its growth goal, including a new partnership with the NFL as the league’s official “Bar + Grill sponsor” and a pipeline of over 200 menu items for testing and potential rollout. On the development side, Dine Brands recently promoted Scott Gladstone to chief development officer, a newly created position designed to “aggressively pursue growth opportunities.”

Further, Applebee’s is creating a new prototype with a stronger return on investment for franchisees. The prototype is expected to hit the market in 2025.

“Our goal is to return to net unit growth and right now we are focused on assembling a prototype for Applebee’s that has a (return) franchisees are looking for. It’s an important pivot for the brand,” Dine Brands CEO John Peyton said during a recent interview. “Most importantly, we agreed to a new development with Flynn Group. It’s a great indication of the largest franchisee’s commitment to the brand and belief in its future.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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