It was an achievement against all odds: Over the past five years, during a crippling economic downturn, the company that is now DineEquity Inc. bought the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar chain for $2 billion and set out to sell roughly 475 company restaurants. The goal — to become an almost entirely franchised chain, similar to sister brand IHOP — was accomplished at the end of 2012. The company also rolled out a comprehensive remodel program, asking ...

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