Longtime Applebee’s franchise owner sells 21 restaurants in NYC area for $140M

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By Dan Sears

Outspoken Applebee’s franchise owner Zane Tankel sold off the majority of his restaurant portfolio to a longtime rival in a $140 million deal.

The 83-year-old Tankel, who owned 23 Applebee’s Grill & Bar eateries in the New York City area, agreed to part with 21 of them in the deal with New Jersey-based Doherty Enterprises last week.

The company operates some 160 chain restaurants, including Applebee’s, Panera Bread and Chevys Fresh Mex.

“I’m not retiring,” Tankel told The Post on Monday. “I have a fair amount of cash and have the ability to do something else.”

Tankel, who bought his first Applebee’s 30 years ago, will retain his flagship Times Square restaurant on W. 42nd St. and one at the Staten Island mall to resolve landlord disputes that arose during the pandemic.

Ed Doherty, 77, has known Tankel for three decades and now manages the Times Square and Staten Island outposts through his family-run business.

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Zane Tankel sold $140M Apple Metro to Doherty’s Enterprises. Christian Johnston / NY Post

Last year, Doherty approached his old pal about acquiring Tankel’s Apple Metro business, which employs some 1,100 hourly employees and managers. All the staff are expected to be retained by Doherty, the executives said.

“Zane [and his business partner Roy Raeburn] did a fabulous job,” Doherty, who is chief executive and chairman of the company told The Post. “I’ve been friends with Zane since 1994, so it was natural that we started talking.”

The acquisition makes Doherty Enterprises the fourth largest Applebee’s franchisee with 104 locations. They are located in the New York metro area, Georgia and Florida. 

The 42nd St. Applebee’s has been a staple in Times Square for more than a quarter of a century. Google Maps

Apple Metro operated 35 eateries at the beginning of the pandemic. It closed a number of locations but held on to its top-performing Times Square eatery despite litigation with its landlord over non-payment of rent. 

That eatery historically generated $25 million in sales, Tankel previously told The Post.

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Tankel has never been one to shy away from criticizing the corporate mothership, Dine Brands over the years, including its ill-fated attempt to churn out wood-fired steaks to boost flagging sales in 2017.

Ed Doherty is the CEO and Chairman of his family run business which operates some 160 chain restaurants. Doherty Enterprises

Dine Brands’ top brass mandated that its franchisees add wood-fired grills to their kitchens to support new menu items, including hand-cut steaks, bone-in pork chops, grilled salmon and chicken.

“It was a huge expense and it has not been the paradigm shift it was expected to be,” Tankel griped to The Post at the time.

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