Appleshore Restaurants

Eating good in the southern Ontario neighbourhood

As the world’s largest casual dining franchise, Applebee’s has become a common answer to the question “where should we eat tonight?” With annual sales in the billions and dozens of new openings every year, Applebee’s is a brand that is recognised in 18 different countries.

Applebee’s American-style food was born out of Atlanta in 1980, and first arrived in Canada fourteen years later. The number of restaurants is growing in this country, as more franchisees learn about how they can be a part of the Applebee’s success story.

For many southern Ontarians, it was about six years ago when Applebee’s became a staple in their casual dining inventory. That was when Robert Troup decided to open up a restaurant in Windsor. “I had some development property available,” says Troup. “I contacted Applebee’s to see if they were interested in the property location, and they were. After I looked at it all, I liked what I saw, so I decided to invest as a landlord and as an owner of Applebee’s.”

The rest was history, as they say. The first opening was highly successful and Troup has since expanded to open more restaurants in Ontario. He named his cluster of stores Appleshore Restaurants, which is comprised of four in total: one in London, one in LaSalle and two in Windsor. “Applebee’s usually likes to see a minimum of five stores under one franchise group,” Troup says, adding that further expansion is a possibility down the road.

‘The name isn’t everything’

Franchisees are always exposed to a degree of personal risk, and success cannot be taken for granted—especially in the restaurant industry. It’s refreshing, then, to hear that Appleshore’s restaurants were an instant hit. “We were well received by the community as soon as we opened,” tells Troup.

When Rejean Gascon, Appleshore Director of Operations, was asked why these restaurants are thriving, he points to more than just brand equity. “People recognise the name Applebee’s, and that certainly helps our success, but the name isn’t everything,” he says. “Once we get people in the door, we have to make sure our customers are satisfied with their entire experience.”

“We try to give the best service,” Troup adds. “We want hot food served hot, and cold food served cold. In my chain here with Rejean, we don’t accept less than that.”

Appleshore also recognises that with good food and good service, must come good value. In fact, value is what distinguishes their restaurants from the competition. “We feel we’re the most cost-conscious franchisee out there, as far as pricing for the customer,” says Gascon. “Appleshore Restaurants has an aggressive Neighbourhood Nights program, where we have a certain special for each night of the week, from Sunday to Friday.”

In case you were wondering, the night for all-you-can-eat riblets—Applebee’s signature menu item—is Monday.

Industry challenges

Troup and Gascon are on to something with value. These days, everyone is looking for it, particularly if your customers live in Windsor. “Economically, Windsor has been the hardest hit city in Canada,” says Troup. “At the height of the recession, the region was grappling with upwards of 35 per cent unemployment.”

Although eating out is one of the first luxuries to go when the budget is tight, Appleshore Restaurants weathered the storm and is recovering well. “We are definitely rebounding,” Troup continues, “and though we’re still under where we have been in the past, we’re confident that in the next six to 12 months, we’ll be back. Our stores are still trailing above average, compared to our competition in Windsor, in terms of guest count.”

As Appleshore works to boost sales, the franchisee has to factor in other challenges, such as fluctuating food costs and the recent 50 per cent minimum wage increase in Ontario. “[The increase] has caused us to take a hard look at how to deliver our services more efficiently,” Gascon maintains. “There’s the fine line in labour where you can’t have too many employees, but you also don’t want to diminish the guest’s experience due to lack of service. It’s about striking the right balance.”

Commitment to the neighbourhood

As a community-friendly restaurant chain, Applebee’s is known for bringing good eats to the neighbourhood. Appleshore’s locations are no different. It seems they always have something going on to remind their neighbours of that commitment. Every Remembrance Day, for example, Appleshore restaurants host a widely successful event, offering a free meal to both veterans and active military personnel.

“Just recently, Appleshore started a senior’s menu from 3pm to 6pm,” says Troup. “We also have a big Alzheimer’s function coming up, where we’re offering a $10-dinner menu at the two Windsor stores. All of the proceeds that are made from that menu go to the Alzheimer’s charity.”

Appleshore will continue on that path as a way to give back to their loyal and valued customers. “We are very invested in our community, and they are invested in us,” Gaston smiles. “It’s been a great partnership over the past few years.”