Five minutes with...Daniel del Olmo, president, DineEquity - Gulf Business
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Five minutes with…Daniel del Olmo, president, DineEquity

Five minutes with…Daniel del Olmo, president, DineEquity

DineEquity is embarking on a massive expansion drive with plans to open 24 Applebee’s restaurants and 17 IHOP outlets in the region, says del Omlo.

1. What is your company focusing on this year?

Overall, continuing to build traffic and sales and increase profitability and value for our franchise partners and stockholders by providing the best guest experience at both Applebee’s and IHOP.

On an international level, we are looking forward to continued expansion for both brands, with an emphasis on three key regions we feel offer the greatest opportunity for growth: Latin America, Asia Pacific and of course, right here in the Middle East.

2. How are you planning to grow your business this year?

2014 was a year marked by strategic planning based on the largest international consumer research study in our company’s history. We spoke to 2,200 consumers around the world, including here in the Middle East to find out their perceptions of both our brands, and as important, what they are looking for in a dining experience.

The results of this study led to a 360 degree brand renovation—a new focus on our creative positioning for each of our brands that will resonate across every touch point of a guest’s experience: advertising and promotion, the design and décor of the restaurants, our menu items and presentation and our service culture.

For Applebee’s we’ve drawn on our 35 year heritage as the quintessential American Grill, where you can come to celebrate any of life’s occasions, big or small—anything from a birthday to finding your car keys after misplacing them…again.

With IHOP, we are drawing on our 57 year heritage of bringing smiles to our guests—spreading happiness since 1958. And everything from new uniforms to the pictures in our restaurants will celebrate our roots in Southern California in the late 1950s.

3. Will you be expanding into new territory and how many outlets are you planning to open this year for your brands?

We are actively looking to expand both with our existing franchise partners and new franchise partners in territories where we currently have restaurants as well as new countries.

This week, we announced that we’ve expanded our deals with several of our existing franchise partners in the GCC and over the next five years, plan to bring 24 new Applebee’s locations and 17 new IHOP restaurants to the region.

4. How much will DineEquity be investing to expand in the Middle East this year?

As a 99 per cent franchised organization, we are focused on helping our franchise partners receive an ROI on their investment in the restaurants they open in the region. While as a public company we don’t reveal specific numbers, we can say that our company is investing more to help our franchise partners achieve success in this region than any time in our company’s history.

5. Which market in the Gulf is the most lucrative or promising for DineEquity?

As mentioned, we see the entire region as one of our three key growth opportunities. We have been very encouraged by the reception both our brands have received from guests in the region, and are thrilled that our franchise partners in each brand have actually come to us with the desire to expand their existing commitments.

6. What are some of the growth areas currently for your industry?

While we can’t speak for the industry as a whole, for our company, we see International as a very key part of our growth.

7. What are the biggest challenges for UAE businesses in your sector?

More than challenges, we’ve found opportunities in this market. We’ve created new footprints that vary in size from our traditional restaurant square footage; we’ve created new menu offerings that are tailored to the local tastes and produce, such as lamb ribs at our Applebee’s restaurants and pancakes that feature pomegranate at our IHOP restaurants

8. Do you think that Dubai’s F&B market is crowded?

The restaurant industry in many markets is highly competitive. But DineEquity is in the unique position of being the only franchisor with two number one brands in their respective category—Applebee’s in the casual dining sector and IHOP the family dining segment. And having two brands that decades of experience and expertise also help differentiate our restaurants.

We also think that with this 360 degree brand evolutions, we will bring a highly distinctive, attractive dining experience to the region. And that helps us stand out from our competition.

9. Will you be hiring this year?

Given that we will be opening new restaurants this year, our franchise partners will be hiring. We estimate that each new location means 50-60 new jobs for the community.

10. What’s your leadership style?

Inclusion and communication are key to me. I feel fortunate to be surrounded with people who share my passion for the brand and I truly consider this to be a team effort. I recognize that everyone’s contribution is important to reaching our goal and that good ideas can come from any member of the team without regard to title or position. It’s important to be open to listening to them, to create an atmosphere where people feel empowered to voice their opinions and for everyone to know that while I may ultimately make a final decision, it is geared to the goals we all share as a team—the success of our brands and our franchise partners.

11. What makes the perfect employee?

I would say that you have to create an environment that allows team members to grow—and that more than anything, someone who is doing something that they love will always be the most valuable part of the team. The people I’m lucky enough to work with at DineEquity and on my team all share a very personal passion for our industry and our company.

12. Define success in five words…

Doing something that you love.

13. Three tips for becoming the boss…

Listen. Communicate. Collaborate.

14. When I’m not at work I like to…

I’m a dedicated runner, currently training for half marathons. Having a personal goal to work towards that is unrelated to business, as well as having that time to clear your mind and focus on something purely physical has become a necessity.


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