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Applebee's (US) Enters Philippine Market

17 Sep 2015 - Through Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. (GRCI) -- which holds the franchises for P.F. Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen, among others -- Applebee’s, the popular rib stop and bar, has arrived in the Philippines. It is set to open “anytime [within] the third week of September,” said Griffith Go, GRCI’s chief financial officer, with its first branch located at the ground floor of the W Global Bldg. in Bonifacio Global City.

A second branch will be opened “immediately” in Eastwood City, he said.

Applebee’s -- founded in 1980 by Bill and T. J. Palmer -- now has 3,600 restaurants in 18 countries. In 2007, it was acquired by breakfast giant IHOP, and the two companies now form DineEquity, Inc. The IHOP brand is franchised in the Philippines by GRCI, as well. Mr. Go noted that Global’s franchise for the IHOP brand recently won the International Franchise Award.

“I’m sure [the win] helped,” he said, on bagging the franchise for IHOP’s sister, Applebee’s. “Initially, they said, ‘If you can become the international franchise [awardee] for IHOP, then you must be doing something right’.”

He notes that two other operators wanted to bring Applebee’s to the Philippines, and although it might seem organic that the owner of the IHOP franchise would get the Applebee’s franchise as well, he noted that “They actually have certain countries that have different franchisees for IHOP and Applebee’s.”

All the restaurants at the ground floor of the W Global Bldg. are franchises of the GRCI group. “The building’s a joint venture with the W group,” said Archie Rodriguez, President and CEO of GRCI. Noted Mr. Go, “It’s easier for us to manage, with traffic so bad nowadays; it’s difficult to move people. We try to make this a restaurant row.”

Mr. Rodriguez spoke about further plans by the group. “We are looking at a few other ideas, not necessarily other franchises, but we are exploring other options for us,” he said. “There’s a concepts that we’ve already developed, that we’re looking to launch very soon, but it’s in a different space. It’s not in casual dining, and it’s targeting a different market -- low-end.”

During a Sept. 10 tasting, guests were able to try the ribs that made Applebee’s so famous. Although its smoky-spicy flavor, which approaches complexity is to be praised, the quesadilla burger is worthy of mention, as a bite into the beef patty, cheese, and sofritos-stuffed tortilla transports one to a place between the US and Mexico, and to the tune of a mariachi band.

“As much as possible, where we could, we try to source [ingredients] locally,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “We think it’s important for us to do that, for many reasons: not only to support the local communities, but also because it... [lessens the] cost.”

“What was critical is that [the] local product had to be better, if not, equal to, what we could import.”

As franchisee of several US-based brands, Mr. Rodriguez provides an outlook for US-based restaurants becoming a hit in the country. “I think the reality is… as a culture, we’ve been colonized by the US, by Spain, by Japan, by China, even… as a consumer, I think we’re probably the most [well] versed when it comes to different cuisine. What makes the Us stand out the most, I suppose, is the fact that our culture is very similar; mainly because of mainstream television and movies.”

“More importantly, we also have family who live in the US. And we visit there, and so we’re exposed to these brands… when we bring it them home, there’s an inherent customer base already.

“We really feel that dining out isn’t about feeding people anymore. Dining out is about entertainment as well. Not only do you have to make sure that the food is good, but you have to make sure that the service is exceptional,” said Mr. Rodriguez.

BusinessWorld Online