Applebee’s has long been one of the most popular casual restaurant chains in the US. Similar chains helped define success through latching on to the timely trend of suburban sprawl. These include O’Charley’s, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Their customers were craving a simplicity they could count on, both in menu choices and affordability.
Despite the success of Applebee’s, they felt they were being forced to change as time moved on. As their regular clientele grew older, their children were tending to move more into the cities. They developed unique and different tastes than their parents. Applebee’s thought that they should introduce certain trendy menu items and rebrand. By doing so they thought they would be able to effectively attract more millennial customers. However, in many ways, this had an unintended effect. They alienated their regular dining patrons, while not bringing in enough of a younger crowd.
Applebee’s has now found it difficult to lure their original customers back. This has resulted in the company resorting to shutting down many of its restaurants. The restaurant chain has announced it will be closing more than 130 locations by 2018. Since the start of 2017, the company’s stock price has shot down by almost 50%. It is currently at its lowest price in over five years.
All businesses must adapt to stay relevant in an attempt to maintain and grow their market share. However, the recent decline of Applebee’s fortunes appears to show that some companies over reach. By being too obvious in trying to be seen as cool and hip, this approach can backfire. This is in spite of how much flair they may brandish.
Texas Roadhouse, on the other hand, has found continued success by focusing on the basics. Instead of rebranding, they have been serving many of their same items without significant price hikes. This has helped them to preserve their traditional customer base and even attract new customers.
Quartz has an excellent piece on this topic by Chase Purdy on their site. For more info check this out.
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