Why Applebee’s is one of the hottest restaurants in America

Pardon the “lol’, but it’s true — 38-year old appetizer slinging sit-down restaurant chain Applebee’s is on fire.

Under one-time board member turned CEO of Applebee’s parent company Dine Brands as of August 2017, Stephen Joyce, Applebee’s has managed to cook up a mind-boggling 7.7% third quarter same-store sales increase from its 1,800-plus worldwide locations. Sales at the restaurant chain have gained in four straight quarters as consumers continue to respond to Joyce’s barrage of alcohol and dinner deals.

For some perspective: Applebee’s long-time rival Chili’s only saw its U.S. same-store sales increase 1.9% in the most recent quarter. And fellow sit-down restaurant chain Cheesecake Factory only had a 1.5% third quarter same-store sales improvement.

Applebee’s at a glance: 3 stats you need to know

  • Four straight same-store sales increases.

  • Same-store sales have increased for 43 consecutive weeks.

  • More than 1,000 locations will have delivery by year end.

Keep in mind that it was just a few years ago Applebee’s was left for dead as prior management at parent company DineEquity (now Dine Brands) unsuccessfully ventured into fancy steak the brand’s core price conscious fans couldn’t afford.

“I think Applebee’s has really hit its groove — this is truly our time,” Joyce told Yahoo Finance. Joyce thinks that a combination of the Trump tax cuts and more stressed out consumers have made Applebee’s the place for comfort food.

Applebee’s recently added pasta and breadsticks to its menu, taking aim at Olive Garden’s dominance.
Applebee’s recently added pasta and breadsticks to its menu, taking aim at Olive Garden’s dominance.

Dine Brands (DIN) shares are up 60% this year. Raymond James analyst Brian Vaccaro upgraded his rating on the stock to Strong Buy Thursday citing confidence in Applebee’s sales outlook for 2019.

As somewhat of an afterthought, Dine Brands’ other concept — IHOP — notched a 1.2% third quarter same-store sales increase. Joyce said the pancake spot has finally found traction during dinner hours with burgers following its “IHOB’ promotion over the summer.

Next up for Joyce: buying a third restaurant concept.

Joyce told Yahoo Finance the company is about a year away from pulling the trigger on an acquisition. The company is likely to buy a regional chain with 75 to 100 locations, Joyce said.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

Read more:

Coca-Cola CEO: Why we aren’t getting into the alcohol business

Hershey CEO: We are having a game-changing year

Panera Bread CEO: Here’s how you will order your food in the future

PepsiCo CFO: There are no plans to break up the company

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers on tech’s biggest problem

Burger King’s CEO shrugs off Wall Street’s worries

Roku Founder: The golden age of TV is just beginning

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, and reddit.