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Local Applebee’s restaurants closing amid tough market conditions

Popular restaurant chain Applebee’s is closing dozens of restaurants across the country, including here on the Central Coast, as the parent company shifts its strategy amid growing competition for casual dining customers.

Its a sign of the times for Applebee’s in San Luis Obispo County where the restaurants in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo have been closed down amid an ongoing shift in consumer tastes and trends.

Industry observers say more people are moving away from going to “sit-down casual dining” restaurants like Applebee’s and moving to “fast-casual dining” like Panera and Chipotle.

“I’m not surprised”, says Panera and Applebee’s customer Karen Goodman, “its also slower service is what I would perceive, I think I can get in and out of Panera a little faster than Applebee’s or any sit-down restaurant.”

In the restaurant business, location is everything and in the case of the San Luis Obispo Applebee’s which is now closed, its immediate neighbors contributed in its demise.

Panera and Buffalo Wild Wings, both fast-growing, fast-casual chains, are across the street and next door to the San Luis Obispo Applebee’s.

Restaurant industry analysts also point to more people choosing to eat at home with lower food prices in grocery stores.

“I also believe a normal, average American is going to eat out at least three times a week at lunchtime”, says Panera employee Margaret White, “lunchtime during the week is our busiest hours, its quick, its fast and its friendly, that’s why they come in.”

The Santa Maria Applebee’s is expected to remain open.

Our phone call to Applebee’s corporate office seeking clarification on future plans for the remaining restaurants on the Central Coast, as well as how many employees lost jobs with the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo store closures, was not returned.

The sign on the door at the closed San Luis Obispo store invites customers to visit other Central Coast locations including Santa Maria and Lompoc.

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