Applebee's hires new chief culinary officer to lead menu revamp

by Rebekah Schouten
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Stephen Bulgarelli, Applebee's, DineEquity
Stephen Bulgarelli has been named vice-president and chief culinary officer of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar.
 

GLENDALE, CALIF. — Stephen Bulgarelli has been named vice-president and chief culinary officer of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, a subsidiary of DineEquity, Inc.

Mr. Bulgarelli joins Applebee’s from Brinker International, Inc., where he spent seven years with Chili’s Bar & Grill, the last five as vice-president of food and beverage. Before joining Chili’s, he was vice-president of culinary innovation at O’Charley’s, was senior director of culinary development for T.G.I. Friday’s and was an executive chef at LSG Sky Chefs. Mr. Bulgarelli is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y.

John Cywinski, Applebee's
John Cywinski, president of Applebee’s

“Chef Stephen possesses a unique balance of strategy, creativity and team orientation that will elevate our menu and strengthen our culinary culture,” said John Cywinski, president of Applebee’s. “All of this coupled with his passionate focus on our guests makes Stephen the ideal partner for our franchisees.”

The addition of Mr. Bulgarelli to the culinary team aligns with DineEquity’s strategy to revamp the Applebee’s menu to revive growth for the struggling chain.

“The Applebee's culinary team is starting a new chapter of menu innovation focused on returning to its roots,” Applebee’s said. “The team will elevate Applebee's neighborhood position around familiar favorites with an emphasis on abundant, indulgent value.”

 

Earlier this month, DineEquity said it planned to close a range of 105 to 135 Applebee’s restaurants after reporting domestic, system-wide, comparable same-restaurant sales in the second quarter declined 6.2% for Applebee’s.

“We are focusing on operations and elevating the guest experience, whether in our restaurants or off-premise,” said Richard J. Dahl, chairman and chief executive officer of DineEquity, during an Aug. 10 call with financial analysts. “We believe 2017 will be a transitional year for Applebee's, and we are making the necessary investments for overall long-term brand health and expect to see improvement over the next year.” 
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