Applebee’s Is Playing with Fire With $75 Million Menu Overhaul

Grilling over wood is always tastier than grilling over gas.

Fortune

Over a year ago, DineEquity Chief Executive Julia Stewart found herself in the casual restaurant operator’s Kansas City, Mo., test kitchen presented with two options: Steak made on Applebee’s traditional gas-powered grill and steak cooked on a wood-fired grill.

Stewart unequivocally preferred the steak grilled over the open fire. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I got hooked.”

But Stewart wasn’t sure that it was feasible for Applebee’s to change how it prepares steaks across all roughly 2,000 restaurants. “I remember saying, ‘Come on guys. You are in the test kitchen and everything is perfection,'” Stewart tells Fortune. She recalls asking: “How am I going to duplicate this?”

Now, DineEquity [fortune-stock symbol=”din”], parent to Applebee’s and IHOP, is going to try. Over the past few months, the company’s franchisees have removed the traditional gas grills that have become an industry standard and replaced them with new wood-fired grills across…

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