Michael Archer has stepped down as president of Applebee’s and has been replaced by Steven Layt, parent company DineEquity Inc. announced Wednesday.

The leadership shift was effective on Feb. 25, the company said. Archer left the company to pursue other opportunities, but his plans were not disclosed.

Layt was previously the senior vice president of operations for Applebee’s. He has been with the Kansas City, Mo.-based casual-dining chain since January 2012 and came from Buffets Inc., where he was chief operating officer. Prior to that, Layt held a number of senior management positions with Yum! Brands Inc.

“Steve is an outstanding leader,” said Julia Stewart, chair and chief executive of DineEquity Inc. “He is well respected by the Applebee’s franchisees, is a true innovator and a team player. We look forward to him moving the Applebee’s brand ahead.”

Stewart also thanked Archer for his commitment and dedication to the Applebee’s brand. “He made a great contribution to the business during his tenure as the president of Applebee’s,” she said.

Archer, who was previously the president and chief operating officer of T.G.I. Friday’s USA, joined Applebee’s in 2008 and has led the bar-and-grill chain through a lengthy refranchising process. Fiscal 2013 marked the first full year that Applebee’s was a 99-percent franchised operation.

The move came as DineEquity reported a 0.7-percent decline in fourth-quarter same-store sales for Applebee’s and a 4.5-percent increase in same-store sales for sister brand IHOP — its highest increase since the first quarter of 2006. For the year, Applebee’s same-store sales fell 0.3 percent.

While extraordinarily bad winter weather was a factor for Applebee’s negative same-store sales in the fourth quarter, Stewart said, “more needs to be done to drive consistent and sustainable positive same-store sales and traffic.”

Stewart noted that Applebee’s is suffering from many of the same challenges that are impacting the entire casual-dining segment. “We need to distinguish ourselves in a meaningful way, but I don’t think that can be done just through the menu and the bar,” she said. “It’s every aspect of the business. I have every confidence that Steve and our franchisees will make that possible.”

So far, Applebee’s has been working to turn around declining traffic by enhancing its menu with more healthful options and a new kid’s menu, revitalizing its bar program, increasing the perception of value and strengthening the franchise base, Stewart said. In addition, the chain is rolling out tabletop tablet technology at all restaurants nationally to give guests more control over ordering and paying.

DineEquity is also growing both brands overseas, with Applebee’s entering both Egypt and the Dominican Republic last year.

Applebee’s ended fiscal 2013 with 2,014 units, of which 23 are company owned.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout