As part of this strategy, we are concentrating leveraging our value proposition and broadening our appeal to guests through an improved menu and consumer messaging."
DIFFERENTIATION STRATEGY. In its quest to capture a large portion of the casual dining industry, Applebee has focused on employing a differentiation strategy which primarily separates itself from the other players in the market. It should be noted that its more than 1,900 stores carries the same aim of "attractive, friendly, neighborhood, establishment featuring moderately priced, high quality, food and beverage items, table service, and a comfortable atmosphere which speaks to all ages" (Company Overview, 2007) of focusing on a narrow market, Applebee's strategy is to appeal to a broad clientele regardless of age, gender, and status. The company stresses that its aim is to appeal to a wide range of customers including young adults, senior citizens, and families with children (Annual Report, 2006).
In its business operation, Applebee maintains its capability of being unique by stressing the quality of its products. Recognizing that casual dining is not just all about offering sumptuous dishes and beverages but also accompanies an intangible component, Applebee also differentiates itself from its competitors by extending excellent customer service (Ronsefeld, 2000). Through these efforts, the industry leader is able to make its distinct mark relative to its rivals. The company's utilization of differentiation strategy is supported by the following complementary and specific strategies.
1. Product Development. Applebee recognizes that even though it needs to maintain its traditional and signature recipes, the palate and general preferences of its market changes over time necessitating the introduction of new recipes into its menu. Thus, the company continuously carries out product innovation in order to enhance its appeal to the market as well as improve the quality of its food products. It should be noted that during 2006 alone, Applebee has augmented its product line with 20 new and improved menu items including similar which were developed by the celebrity chef Tyler Florence (Annual Report, 2006). Recognizing the market's increasing preference for healthier living and awareness of the risks of obesity, the company has also introduced Weight Watchers branded menu alternatives to its clientele (Annual Report, 2006).
2. Excellent Customer Service. Applebee capitalizes from the provision of excellent customer service in its restaurants. The restaurant chain believes that customers should always be provided with the utmost convenience: "Our restaurants are more than just food; they're about inclusiveness, value, comfort, trust, and convenience" (Rosenfeld, 2000). The company has established a set of service procedures which are strictly followed by all its outlets. Thus, when a guest arrived at the restaurant, he is immediately greeted by its attendant who also opens the front door as a gesture of welcome. Managers openly