Brand of the Day: Applebee’s Earns a Glowing Review From Critic Who Loved Olive Garden

'A salad to remember'

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Marilyn Hagerty, the elderly food critic for North Dakota's Grand Forks Herald newspaper, whose earnest 2012 review of Olive Garden went viral, is back with an equally warm take on Applebee's.

While Hagerty really likes the Chicken Oriental Salad, that isn't the nicest thing she has to say about the establishment. "Applebee's is a place where customers tend to linger and chat," she writes.

Isn't it exactly the kind of image that a chain with more than 2,000 locations would want to have? Sure, lots of people will mock Hagerty's review. But for millions more Americans, her experience will be their experience, too—no wonder it's exactly the kind of broadly appealing, neighborly vibe Applebee's has long worked to establish.

Broadly appealing, but customized too: While it remains one of the largest casual dining chains, the decor of Applebee's interiors uses photos of local high school sports teams, firefighters, policemen and so on.

Social Media Profile (as of 9/26/14)

Facebook Likes: 5.8 million

Twitter Followers: 378,303

Instagram Followers: 20,241

While Applebee's is active on all of its social profiles—with lots of promotions as well as some odd Photoshop choices—what the brand is doing with its Instagram account is particularly intriguing. The brand is posting user-generated content for the next year and it has already begun to pay off.

Recent Advertising

While the brand often uses advertising to tout its various deals, it has also used humor, in many cases showing protagonists who love their food more than their spouses or family. 

Fast Facts

  • The first Applebee's opened in Atlanta in 1980 under the name T.J. Applebee's Rx for Edibles & Elixirs.
  • In 1986, someone realized that T.J. Applebee's Rx for Edibles & Elixirs doesn't roll off the tongue that easily, and the name was changed to Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar. 
  • In 2004, the brand partnered with Weight Watchers for a low-calorie menu. That same year Applebee's introduced its Carside To Go service.
  • In 2007, IHOP, now known as DineEquity, purchased Applebee's for nearly $2.1 billion.
  • The chain appears several times, almost comically so, throughout the Friday Night Lights series. 

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.