The CEO of Dine Brands— which owns Applebee's and IHOP — is tired of reports that millennials are killing sit-down, casual, and family dining chains.
"I'd like to put to rest false news about the death of casual family dining and the abandonment by millennials of the categories," Stephen Joyce said at the beginning of the company's earnings call last week. Dine Brands reported that Applebee's grew sales in the US by 3.3%, driven primarily by increased traffic, in the most recent quarter.
Applebee's has struggled to grow sales in recent years and closed 99 locations in 2017. Business Insider has closely covered the struggles casual-dining chains have faced over the last year, with headlines such as "Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's."
Earlier this week, Business Insider sat down with Joyce and talked more about the rumored death of casual dining — and settled the question of millennials' murder spree once and for all.
Applebee's problems, Joyce told Business Insider, hasn't necessarily been millennials. But, he admitted that they played a role in recent struggles.
According to Joyce, the chain has failed to research what customers across the board actually want from a restaurant. In an effort to appeal to what executives thought millennials wanted, the chain distanced itself from what Applebee's is actually known for.
"You cannot manufacture yourself and be a politician," Joyce said. "You can't say I'm an Epicurean delight and I'm comfort food. I think millennials have better bulls--- meters than we did growing up."
Some of Applebee's ads weren't getting by the bulls--- meter. One commercial that Applebee's tested, as remembered by Joyce, showed young, beautiful millennials laughing while dining on small plates at the restaurant.