Applebee's CEO says death of casual dining is 'false news'

Recently there have been reports of millennials killing the casual family dining industry. But the CEO of Dine Brands, parent company of Applebee’s, says that’s not true.

“I'd like to put to rest false news about the death of casual family dining and the abandonment by millennials of the categories,” said Stephen Joyce said during a conference call last week, Food News Feed is reporting.

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According to Joyce, millennials are actually driving the restaurant’s growth — he claims guests under the age of 34 make up the largest percentage of customers at Applebee’s. “And the last time I looked, those are millennials,” he added.

Applebee’s data revealed only 26.4 percent of Applebee’s customers are Baby Boomers, 28.3 percent Gen X and 15 percent Gen Z. Millennials account for 29 percent of customers — a larger percentage than any of the other generations.

The news that Applebee’s has experienced its second consecutive quarter of positive sales and traffic comes at a time when people have been counting casual restaurant chains out.

“When you look at the alternatives out there in the marketplace today and who's creating buzz and creating excitement, it's gone away from chain casual dining," John Antioco, the former CEO of TGI Fridays, told Business Insider last year.

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Applebee’s attributes its success to being more aware of “guest feedback on our menus” and taking “opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” Joyce said.

The chain also shuttered 26 underperforming stores in the quarter, adding to their numbers' growth.