Applebee's toys with loyalty program

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

After trying to lure customers with quesadilla burgers and two-for-$20 dinners, the Applebee's chain has a new tactic: a loyalty and rewards program.

The restaurant is testing Applebee's Perks in about 160 American locations, said Dan Smith, a spokesman for DineEquity Inc., the owner of Applebee's. Customers who sign up for the program can earn free food, discounts and invitations to store events.

Applebee's has been trying to entice diners with changes including remodeled stores, healthier menus and table-top ordering via tablet computers. Still, sales at Applebee's locations open at least 18 months fell in the past three quarters, hurt by harsh winter weather and heavy competition.

U.S. casual-dining chains — restaurants like Applebee's and Chili's that offer waiter service — are underperforming fast-food and fast-casual eateries.

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