Club Applebee'sAsk the average guy on the street for a prime example of a generic, mediocre “casual dining” chain and chances are very good that he’ll name Applebee’s, The Olive Garden, or both (though you might get the occasional Outback Steakhouse or T.G.I. Friday’s).

These restaurants often do pretty good business, but we think you’ll agree: they have something of an image problem. Yet Applebee’s, also known as the microwave industry’s best friend, has witnessed big sales growth over the past two years.

How? Let’s call it self-acceptance.

Julia Stewart, CEO of parent company DineEquity, uses her recent Fast Company interview to talk about selling locations to local operators, yada yada, but her main point involves embracing the fact that people tend to make fun of Applebee’s (if they mention it at all).

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