Strategic renewal through franchisee innovation?

Entertaining story of how the Applebee’s restaurant chain is trying to improve asset utilization by adding late-night karaoke and G-rated cut-loose partying to its traditional family-friendly but competitively besieged regular-hours dining experience. The impetus for this innovation appears to have been franchisees who went to their privately-held franchisor and asked for permission to experiment, which was enthusiastically granted.

My favorite part of this story is the superhero-like switch from regular-hours Applebee’s to creature of the night “bee’s” with the “Apple” part of the electric sign turned off, the lights switched from green to white, and the space cleared for dancing and DJs. My second-favorite part is the image of some naive soul coming in for a snack after 10:00PM–“oh, look honey, Applebee’s is still open; let’s get some pie”–and being confronted with hard-partying suburbanites belting out Foreigner tunes and dancing drunkenly. They’re going to have some delicate marketing and branding issues going forward, but it’s hard not to cheer for the entrepreneurial spirit displayed. After all,  there are suburban archipelagoes of shopping centers where the only late-night place to go out will be “bee’s.”


One Comment on “Strategic renewal through franchisee innovation?”

  1. Richard Makadok says:

    Some of McDonald’s most successful product innovations were invented by franchisees, including:
    1.) The Big Mac: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac#History
    2.) The Filet-O-Fish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filet-O-Fish#History
    3.) The Happy Meal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Meal#History
    4.) The Egg McMuffin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMuffin#History
    5.) The Quarter Pounder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter_Pounder#History

    Similarly, the “curbside take-away” concept for casual-dining restaurants was invented by an Outback Steakhouse franchisee:
    http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/outback-steakhouse-inc-history/

    — RJM


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