Applebee's lights up 2,000 new wood-fired grills

by Bob Sims
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 Applebee's is launching wood-fired grills at restaurants.
Applebee's will be cooking its steaks on wood-fired grills made in the US. 

GLENDALE, Calif. – Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar unveiled American-made, wood-fired grills as the centerpiece of nearly 2,000 restaurants in the United States in an effort to be the largest casual chain in the country. Hand-cut in-house USDA Choice steaks are also being rolled out as the signature item of a new menu.

An ad campaign will accompany the new grills and steaks with spots on both network and cable television channels, online and movie theaters. It will be one of the largest and most comprehensive campaigns in Applebee’s history and reach historic levels of consumer awareness, the company said in a statement.

“We’re in the midst of a transformation at Applebee’s, and we are recommitting ourselves to every aspect of the guest experience,” said Julia Stewart, chairman and CEO of Applebee’s parent company DineEquity, Inc., and president of Applebee’s. “Food is, of course, central to that, and in talking to guests, we discovered that a platform built on ‘USDA Choice,’ ‘hand-cut in-house’ and ‘wood-fired’ was not only powerful but had the potential to differentiate us in a noisy and crowded market.

“This goes far beyond a few new menu items or a limited-time offer. This is the biggest investment in culinary excellence in the company’s history – transforming the menu, instilling pride in franchisee team members, delighting current guests and giving others a reason to come back.”

Bone-in Pork chops will accompany the steaks as the first new menu items to be prepared on the new oak wood grills. Trained meat cutters will hand-cut the chops and steaks, and wood corrals filled with American oak logs will be placed at the entrance of the restaurants for guests to see upon entry.

Hand-cut wood-fired USDA Choice steaks are the centerpiece of Applebee's new menu. 
Applebee's will also have a brand new marketing campaign to go with the grill launch. 

Created in suburban Atlanta in 1980 Applebee’s saw early success, but shifting consumer tastes and brand perception have challenged its performance in recent years. The introduction of the new grills and menu items are the first actions of a series in an effort to bring back its popularity among American customers. New designs for restaurants and remodeling of existing restaurants are also part of the push.

Kansas City-based ad agency, Barkley created the new ad campaign which features 15- and 30-second spots consisting of straight-talk, authenticity and powerful up-close visuals of the new wood-fired grill platform, according to a statement from Applebee’s. Iconic rock music such as AC/DC’s “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” will be part of the score for the ad spots.

Starting today, Applebee’s menu will include a variety of selections from the wood-fired grill, including:

• 6 oz., 8 oz. and 12 oz. Hand-Cut USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks

• Hand-Cut, Bone-In Pork Chop with honey apple chutney and Cajun seasoning

• Cedar-Grilled Salmon with maple mustard glaze

• Wood-Fired Grilled Chicken Breast

Other menu items including appetizers and salads will also contain proteins and vegetables prepared on the new grills.

Applebee’s franchisees invested more than $75 million for on the purchase and installation of the grills, training for the meat cutters and the ad campaign accompanying the changes.

“Together with our franchisees, we’re building the Applebee's of tomorrow – embracing the best parts of our neighborhood roots and our passion for bringing people together, while transforming the guest experience in ways that enhance our connection with today's consumers,” Stewart said. “If you haven’t been to Applebee’s in a while, it’s a different place than you remember.”

     

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