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John Cywinski named Applebee’s brand president

Former Brinker executive takes over at casual-dining chain

DineEquity Inc. on Thursday named former Brinker executive John Cywinski brand president of Applebee’s.

Cywinski most recently was executive vice president of strategic innovation and marketing at Chili’s parent Brinker International Inc. Before that, he worked with Yum! Brands Inc. as president of KFC’s U.S. business.

Cywinski previously operated Dunkin’ Donuts and Sonic restaurants in Chicago, which he has since sold. And he spent five years as Applebee’s chief marketing officer from 2001 through 2006. At Applebee’s he spearheaded the chain’s Carside To Go initiative as well as an alliance with Weight Watchers and the “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” ad campaign.

“We are pleased that John is rejoining the Applebee’s team, this time as brand president,” Richard Dahl, DineEquity’s interim CEO, said in a statement. “He is in the unique position of being able to provide extensive industry experience and a fresh, innovative perspective to the Applebee’s business, while already having a deep understanding and appreciation of the brand and strong, collaborative relationships with its franchise community.”

Cywinski joins as Applebee’s is reeling from one of the worst years in company history. Same-store sales fell 7.2 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31. Julia Stewart, DineEquity’s longtime CEO, resigned last month.

Applebee’s hasn’t had a brand president since 2015, when Steven Layt resigned when DineEquity consolidated its two brands, including IHOP, in California. 

“This is a very meaningful homecoming for me, and I’m looking forward to partnering with Applebee’s franchisees as well as the Applebee’s and DineEquity teams to unlock the growth within this great brand,” Cywinski said.

Inset photo courtesy of DineEquity

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

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