Applebee's is ditching millennials after they forced hundreds of restaurant closures

Applebee's has given up on millennials.

Earlier in August, executives announced that the chain plans to close between 105 and 135 locations this year. Applebee's closed 46 locations in 2016. Sales have been declining, with same-store sales dropping 7% in the most recent quarter.

The chain's failed attempt to win over millennial diners is at least partially to blame for struggles, according to executives.

"Over the past few years, the brand's set out to reposition or reinvent Applebee's as a modern bar and grill in overt pursuit of a more youthful and affluent demographic with a more independent or even sophisticated dining mindset, including a clear pendulum swing towards millennials," John Cywinski, Applebee's brand president, said in a recent call with investors.

RELATED: Check out the 20 best chain restaurants in America:

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The best restaurant chains in America

20. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews

Headquarters: Greenwood Village, Colorado

US sales: $1.48 billion

Number of US locations: 533

Financial performance rank: 13 

Value rank: 22

Customer satisfaction rank: 22

Fans of the chain swear by burgers such as the Smoke & Pepper, the Black & Bleu, and the Madlove Burger (a Black Angus patty topped with four types of cheese, jalapeño relish, candied bacon, avocado, tomato, onion, and lettuce).

Red Robin launched a rebranding effort in 2012, updating decor, revamping restaurant layouts, and doubling down on its bar business. In January, Brian Vaccaro of financial services firm Raymond James said the company is "undervalued," and that key hires could bring the chain to new heights in 2017. 

Photo credit: Getty 

19. P.F. Chang's China Bistro

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

US sales: $892 million

Number of US locations: 216

Financial performance rank: 19

Value rank: 42

Customer satisfaction rank: 18

P.F. Chang's debuted in the early 1990s as a partnership between Philip Chiang, owner of the staple Los Angeles Chinese restaurant Mandarette, and Paul Fleming, an Arizona restaurateur and avid Mandarette fan.

The chain is known for its lettuce wraps and dim sum. Its entire menu is made-to-order and utilizes fresh ingredients. 

Photo credit: Getty 

18. Joe's Crab Shack

Headquarters: Houston, Texas

US sales: $370 million

Number of US locations: 113

Financial performance rank: 32

Value rank: 9

Customer satisfaction rank: 7

Joe's Crab Shack is struggling — but loyal customers still love the chain. 

In August, the mid-bankruptcy chain closed 41 restaurants without warning. Executives plan to shrink the chain from 113 locations to roughly 60, Nation's Restaurant News reported.

Despite this, Joe's Crab Shack still landed in the top 10 in terms of value and customer satisfaction. 

Photo credit: Getty 

17. The Cheesecake Factory

Headquarters: Calabasas, California

US sales: $2.1 billion

Number of US locations: 194

Financial performance rank: 11

Value rank: 46

Customer satisfaction rank: 23

The Cheesecake Factory is famous for its extensive and calorie-packed menu. 

Today, the chain — which started with a single homemade cheesecake in 1949 — serves more than 30 cheesecakes. In July, the chain launched its latest cheesecake flavor: a Celebration Cheesecake made with both original cheesecake and vanilla cake and topped with edible "confetti." 

Photo credit: Getty 

16. Olive Garden

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $3.87 billion

Number of US locations: 840

Financial performance rank: 2

Value rank: 18

Customer satisfaction rank: 32

Americans still love endless breadsticks, with Olive Garden now the No. 2 biggest sit-down restaurant chain by sales in the US. The chain has also managed to win over millennials, a generation that is typically suspicious of casual dining chains. 

"Millennials still want to come to restaurants," Gene Lee, Darden Restaurants' CEO, said in a call with investors in June. "I know you all don't think millennials go to casual dining restaurants, but 30% of all our guests are millennials."

Photo credit: Getty 

15. Yard House

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $524 million

Number of US locations: 65

Financial performance rank: 27

Value rank: 32

Customer satisfaction rank: 25

Yard House serves more than 100 brews on draft, priding itself as a leader in chain restaurant craft beer selection. Particularly thirsty customers can order beer in a "half yard," a 32-ounce monster of a glass. 

In addition to beer, Yard House serves up an extensive list of bar-friendly offerings such as poke nachos, wings, and fish and chips. 

Photo credit: Getty 

14. BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse

Headquarters: Huntington Beach, California

US sales: $993 million

Number of US locations: 189

Financial performance rank: 17

Value rank: 28

Customer satisfaction rank: 20

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse offers a Southern California twist on traditional Chicago deep-dish pizza. 

The chain opened its first location in 1978. In the last two decades, BJ's has also become a craft beer champion. The chain has won more than 150 awards for its craft beers, including the gold medal for robust porter at the World Beer Cup 2016 with its PM Porter.

Photo credit: Reuters 

13. Bonefish Grill

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

US sales: $630 million

Number of US locations: 210

Financial performance rank: 25

Value rank: 15

Customer satisfaction rank: 8

Tim Curci and Chris Parker opened the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2000.

Over the last 17 years, the chain has thrived by emphasizing the "elegant simplicity" of fresh seafood and the quality of its dishes. 

Photo credit: Getty 

12. Pappasito's Cantina

Headquarters: Houston, Texas

US sales: $160 million

Number of US locations: 24

Financial performance rank: 50

Value rank: 27

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Pappasito's is a newcomer on the list this year. While the chain only has 24 locations, it's quickly becoming a cult favorite and earned one of the highest customer satisfaction scores. 

The Tex-Mex chain is just one of many chains run by the Pappas family. Other brands include Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, and Pappas Bar-B-Q. 

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

11. Chuy's

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

US sales: $331 million

Number of US locations: 82

Financial performance rank: 37

Value rank: 6

Customer satisfaction rank: 14

Founders Mike Young and John Zapp opened the first Chuy's in Austin, Texas in 1982. 

The chain's Tex-Mex menu draws from culinary traditions rooted in New Mexico, Mexican border towns, South Texas, and more. In addition to the food, the chain is known for its quirky decorations, with hand-carved wooden fish, hanging hubcaps, and shrines to Elvis Presley. 

Photo credit: Reuters 

10. Seasons 52

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $247 million

Number of US locations: 40

Financial performance rank: 42

Value rank: 7

Customer satisfaction rank: 9

Seasons 52 sets itself apart from sister brands Yard House and LongHorn Steakhouse with a more upscale menu and sophisticated environment.

With an average check of $33.30, it's pricier than the average restaurant chain. However, items like Chilean sea bass and sea scallops aren't going to be cheap — and loyal customers are more than willing to pay up. 

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

9. Bahama Breeze Island Grill

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $219 million

Number of US locations: 36

Financial performance rank: 46

Value rank: 16

Customer satisfaction rank: 13

Bahama Breeze is one of the lesser-known chains on the list, with just 36 locations.

The chain serves up Caribbean-inspired fare, including Jamaican jerk chicken, conch fritters, and tropical cocktails. 

Photo credit: Facebook.com

8. LongHorn Steakhouse

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $1.64 billion

Number of US locations: 500

Financial performance rank: 12

Value rank: 13

Customer satisfaction rank: 15

LongHorn, which is owned by the same parent company as Olive Garden and Yard House, is known for its steak and sizable margarita selection.

The first LongHorn location opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1981. One year later, according to the chain, it went from a struggling single restaurant to a local phenomenon after an unexpected blizzard stranded motorists and forced them to seek food and shelter there.

Photo credit: Getty 

7. Abuelo's

Headquarters: Lubbock, Texas

US sales: $123 million

Number of US locations: 39

Financial performance rank: 51

Value rank: 1

Customer satisfaction rank: 2

Abuelo's is the smallest restaurant on the list by sales. However, when it comes to value, it's No. 1. 

The chain serves Mexican and Tex-Mex classics such as fajitas, burritos, and margaritas. Items are made fresh in restaurants, which are designed to imitate an open-air Mexican courtyard.  

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

6. First Watch

Headquarters: Bradenton, Florida

US sales: $174 million

Number of US locations: 160

Financial performance rank: 49

Value rank: 19

Customer satisfaction rank: 6

First Watch is all about breakfast. Unlike most sit-down chains, First Watch is only open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

In addition to a menu packed with breakfast classics like eggs and pancakes, the chain also offers diners complimentary newspapers and WiFi to provide the necessary ingredients for the ideal morning routine. 

Photo credit: Getty 

5. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Headquarters: Lebanon, Tennessee

US sales: $2.32 billion

Number of US locations: 640

Financial performance rank: 10

Value rank: 8

Customer satisfaction rank: 16

Cracker Barrel is a road tripper's paradise, with travelers making up 60% of customers, according to the company. 

The chain has tried to keep up with the times with initiatives such as its fast-casual concept, Holler & Dash. However, for many fans of the chain, it's things like the semi-kitschy old country store, biscuits, and vast array of breakfast foods that keep them coming back for more. 

Photo credit: Getty 

4. Maggiano's Little Italy

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

US sales: $412 million

Number of US locations: 52

Financial performance rank: 31

Value rank: 3

Customer satisfaction rank: 3

Maggiano's serves up classic homemade Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and chicken parmesan.

The first Maggiano's location opened in Chicago in 1991. Brinker International — also the parent company of Chili's — purchased the chain in 1995 and grew it to its current size of 52 locations. 

Photo credit: Getty 

3. Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

Headquarters: Irving, Texas

US sales: $751 million

Number of US locations: 165

Financial performance rank: 22

Value rank: 4

Customer satisfaction rank: 10

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen gets its name from its commitment to making every dish fresh to order from "scratch." According to the Texas chain, this dedication to fresh and speedy service requires twice the number of kitchen cooks as other restaurants. 

The chain's menu is filled with American classics like burgers, pastas, and steaks. 

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

2. The Capital Grille

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $413 million

Number of US locations: 56

Financial performance rank: 30

Value rank: 2

Customer satisfaction rank: 1

The Capital Grille is the priciest chain on the list, with an average check of $53.60. However, diners still feel like they're getting their money's worth. 

That's probably because the chain is second to none when it comes to customer satisfaction. The Capital Grille's wine list contains more than 350 options, and fine-dining menu items like sliced filet and seared halibut aren't available at most restaurant chains. 

Photo credit: Getty

1. Texas Roadhouse

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky

US sales: $2.34 billion

Number of US locations: 499

Financial performance rank: 9

Value rank: 10

Customer satisfaction rank: 4

For the second year in a row, Texas Roadhouse reigned supreme among the chain restaurants. 

Since opening in 1993, the chain has gained a cult following who swears by its steaks, ribs, and unlimited, fresh-baked bread and cinnamon butter. When diners arrive at their table, they are given a bucket of peanuts and encouraged to toss the shells on the floor, a testament to Texas Roadhouse's casual atmosphere.

Photo credit: Getty 

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He continued: "In my perspective, this pursuit led to decisions that created confusion among core guests, as Applebee's intentionally drifted from what I'll call its 'Middle America' roots and its abundant value position. While we certainly hope to extend our reach, we can't alienate Boomers or Gen-Xers in the process."

Attempts by Applebee's to win over millennials included a "comprehensive business transformation" meant to modernize the chain in 2016. Franchisees spent millions of dollars on changes such as installing fire grills and redesigning locations.

Moving foward, Cywinski said that Applebee's will turn its focus away from millennials. Instead, it will market more to "routine traditionalists" who actually enjoy casual dining chains and have favorite menu items, as well as "value seekers" who are looking for deals at sit-down restaurants.

Applebee's isn't the only sit-down, casual dining brand trying — and mostly failing — to win over millennials.

Chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Ruby Tuesdays have faced slumping sales and store closures.

"Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders earlier this year.

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SEE ALSO: 'Psychologically scarred' millennials are killing countless industries from napkins to Applebee's — here are the businesses they like the least

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