DineEquity, one of the world’s largest full service restaurant companies and franchisor of Ihop and Applebee’s hosted the grand opening of Applebee’s Festival City on 11 October, showcasing its first Middle East restaurant created under the new brand evolution.
The new brand configuration was created following a survey of more than 2,000 Applebee’s and Ihop consumers worldwide, which unveiled that customers are seeking a more emotional connection with the brands.
On the sidelines of the opening ceremony, DineEquity president Daniel del Olmo told Catering News Middle East: “We’ve created what we think is a great representation of contemporary America today, but adapted to the local needs and flavours of our guests in the Middle East. We couldn’t be more proud of this latest execution in Dubai Festival City.
“The ultimate objective we had was to become a backdrop for celebrating every moment you have in life with your family and friends because there’s always a reason to celebrate. Whether a child has just graduated high school or you’ve received a 1% raise at work, those small but important moments are opportunities for us to jointly celebrate with you at Applebee’s. We provide the backdrop with a great experience, great food and a great smile, ultimately to bring your celebration to life.”
The brand evolution comes as the company plans to double its Middle East portfolio over the next five years.
With 50 restaurants open and operating in the region across Ihop and Applebee’s brands, another seven are set to open by year-end 2016, and the portfolio will reach more than 100 restaurants by 2021.
Julia Stewart, DineEquity chairman and chief executive officer commented: “The Middle East is probably one third of our international business and it’s very important internationally. It is one of our key focuses for the next several years.
“The UAE and Saudi Arabia are real growth markets, in addition to Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. We are working with our partners trying to find the right growth trajectory.”
All of DineEquity’s business outside of the US is franchised, and the company is currently growing with 70% of its existing franchisees internationally, and continues to seek new partnership opportunities.
“We see a bright future globally; our brands are iconic and growing and our evolution is something we’re proud of because many restaurants don’t do that boldly enough. I think we’ve been very bold in our evolution,” Stewart said.