DineEquity: Julia Stewart (CEO)
Julia Stewart, long time CEO of DineEquity (IHOP and Applebee’s restaurants), will no longer take the seat at the head of the table. In 2017 she announced her resignation after 16 years of leading the company through nourishing growth and transformation of the breakfast industrial complex. With Stewart watching the pot, IHOP’s net income rose 19% between 2003 and 2005. To spice things up, she concocted the 2007 merger of IHOP and Applebee’s, the company that originally gave her a start in the restaurant industry as a waitress in high school. With Stewart at the helm DineEquity became one of the largest full service, fully franchised chains in the world, rivaling Martha to become the most successful Stewart in the kitchen. Stewart is both a pioneer of women in restaurant executive leadership and also one of the longest tenured CEOs in the restaurant business. She won many awards including the Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain award and is a founding member of the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF), an industry organization committed to the advancement and development of women. In an industry that is seeing fast casual (think Chipotle and Panera) eat away at casual dining restaurants, such as IHOP and Applebee’s, it only makes Stewart’s list of accomplishments more impressive. Stewart’s resignation is the latest in a long string of restaurant CEO departures in response to declining sales industrywide. With the changing landscape of the restaurant industry, it’s unclear whether DineEquity will be better off with a new head chef. If Stewart was unable to fix this recipe, it is difficult to imagine who can. Good luck to DineEquity board member, Stephen Joyce, who was charged with the task in September. Hopefully he won’t find himself in hot water without Stewart’s guidance.
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