So what: Despite posting a couple of decent quarters in 2015, DineEquity just couldn't seem to get out from under the clouds hovering over restaurant stocks. Margin-pressuring wage hikes and a general slowdown within the consumer discretionary industry weighed heavily on the sector all year, giving short-term-oriented investors little reason to stick with DineEquity and its somewhat uninspiring outlook. Last quarter, for example, management revised its fiscal 2015 sales guidance for Applebee's to between flat and positive 1%, down from a range of positive 1% and positive 3%.
So, while management did well to grow same-store sales for IHOP and Applebee's 5.6% and 1.1%, respectively, during the first nine months of 2015, it just wasn't enough convince investors that the brands are durable enough to stand up to continued headwinds.
Now what: In 2016, expect management to keep opening new IHOP stores at an aggressive pace while continuing to reinvent Applebee's through facelifts and menu innovation.
"We are leveraging our strong brands and collaborating with our franchisees to move the business forward," said Chairman and CEO Julia Stewart last quarter. "New restaurant development continues at a healthy pace. Our ongoing focus on enhancing the guest experience, operational excellence and financial discipline has positioned us for continued growth and success." More importantly, with DineEquity shares still flirting with their 52-week lows and trading at a forward P/E in the low-teens, now might be an opportune time to bet on that bullishness.