Applebee’s Orders Up a Search

Applebee’s International has contacted a number of agencies nationwide through a West Coast consultant about handling its advertising account, sources said.
The casual dining chain, based in Overland Park, Kan., spends about $35 million a year behind its Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill restaurants.
Consultant Mike Marsak, president of Effective Marketing Strategies in Marina del Rey, Calif., has contacted agencies on both coasts and in the Midwest, sources said. All the shops have previous food-service experience.
Applebee’s advertising is currently handled by Wyse Advertising in Cleveland. Marc Wyse, chairman and chief executive officer, said he was not aware of any review by the client.
The move follows the arrival last month of Karen Eadon as Applebee’s senior vice president, marketing. Eadon was a marketing director at Atlantic Richfield when Marsak conducted a review for the oil company in 1995. That pitch led to the selection of Rubin Postaer and Associates in Santa Monica, Calif. as lead agency. Neither Eadon nor other marketing officials at the company could not be reached for comment.
Wyse’s latest work includes TV spots touting Applebee’s sirloin as the best-selling steak in America.
Applebee’s, which competes with the likes of TGI Friday’s, Bennigan’s, The Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, operates 950 units in the U.S. The chain, whose advertising typically trades on its neighborly, small-town appeal, has seen its once-hot growth streak cool recently as consumers seek a variety of other food options. Systemwide sales were flat at roughly $1.8 billion last year.
Nonethless, the restaurateur spent $35.5 million on advertising last year, a 24 percent increase from 1997 expenditures of $28.6 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
–with Angela Dawson