Former CMO Returns to Applebee's as President, Hopes to Spark Turnaround
DineEquity, Inc., the parent company of Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and IHOP restaurants, announced that John Cywinski has been appointed president of Applebee's, effective Friday.
Cywinski most recently served as Executive Vice President of Strategic Innovation and Marketing at Brinker International, parent company of Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy. Prior to Brinker, John was at Yum! Brands from 2010 to 2014, where he was the President of KFC's $4.4 billion, 4,400 restaurant U.S. business. Before joining Yum! John spent four years as a franchisee himself, owning and operating successful Dunkin' Donuts and Sonic restaurants in Chicago; he has since sold all of his restaurants.
From 2001 to 2006, John served as the chief marketing officer of Applebee's, where he led all aspects of brand strategy and positioning including, marketing, culinary and menu strategies, while spearheading innovative initiatives like Applebee's Carside To Go, a five-year alliance with Weight Watchers, and the "Eatin' Good In The Neighborhood" ad campaign. Previously, John served as Vice President of U.S. Brand Strategy for McDonald's Corporation, President of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing for The Walt Disney Company and led U.S. Marketing for Burger King. John started his career with Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago.
"We are pleased that John is rejoining the Applebee's team, this time as brand president," says Richard J. Dahl, DineEquity's chairman and interim chief executive officer. "John is a highly-regarded industry veteran with more than 25 years of leadership experience, including leading quick service and casual dining brands. Importantly, he is in the unique position of being able to provide extensive industry experience and a fresh innovative perspective to the Applebee's business, while already having a deep understanding and appreciation of the brand and strong collaborative relationships with its franchise community. Through his previous work with KFC and Applebee's, John has proven his ability to work with franchisees to revitalize a brand, and we couldn't imagine a better fit to lead Applebee's turnaround."
Continues Dahl, "Applebee's is an iconic brand, number one in its category, with a broad footprint and sophisticated franchisee base. While the business, like the category, is going through a challenging period, we are confident that we can improve performance and drive long-term growth again under John's leadership. DineEquity's highly-franchised model continues to generate significant cash flow, which will enable us to make substantial investments in the brand, and we are thrilled to have John on board to guide our growth initiatives."
"I'm thrilled to be back at Applebee's, where I was previously part of a terrific senior team and franchise community that led the transformation of the company," says Cywinski. "This is a very meaningful homecoming for me and I'm looking forward to partnering with Applebee's franchisees as well as the Applebee's and DineEquity teams to unlock the growth within this great brand. I am both proud and humbled to have this opportunity and I'm committed to working tirelessly with all partners to reestablish Applebee's excellence and leadership in the category."