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Applebee’s Franchisee Who Pushed for Change

I enjoyed this short discussion with Zane Tankel, a 34-unit Applebee’s franchisee in New York. He pushed corporate for changes such as removing the baggy shirt and tie requirement (he says “who wants to look at girls behind the bar all buttoned up?”). His times square location is the chain’s highest revenue unit at $13.5 million last year. Here’s an example insightful answer:

Q. What have you learned about doing business in those neighborhoods?

A. When we open a restaurant and are interviewing, we will have guys show up with their pants hanging below their crotch, their hat on sideways, answering our questions antagonistically. Our recruiters will say to them, ‘If you’re here for a job, go home and get dressed like you’re applying for a job and then come back.’ Many will go home, change and come back.

I give Applebee’s credit for not axing him from the system, and instead learning to work with him.

About Ryan Knoll

Attorney and advisor with an interest in franchising. Feel free to email me comments and questions on the "Contact Us" page.


  1. Wow – what a neat interview – dang…the man has stones

  2. I’m an expat in Hong Kong. The only “American” casual restaurant I’ve seen around here is Outback Steakhouse in Wan Chai, Lawry’s Steakhouse, and BLT Burger. McDonald’s does a strong business here and I would bet KFC and the usual crowd would too. Ebeneezer’s is a kebab/curry/schwarma wrap/gyro restaurant that does very good business especially with expats.

    A company called Dining Concepts http://www.diningconcepts.com.hk/ in Hong Kong tinkered enough with the typical American restaurant categories and opened a pizzeria, taco bar, burger joint, japanese, italian, thai, and several others. They all seem to do well too, lucky bastards!

    I’m publicly urging US restaurant companies to open in Hong Kong. Are you listening Chili’s, Dominos, Five Guys, Smashburger, Cheesecake Factory?

  3. What ever happen to making a “good” first impression?

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