Applebee’s restates growth target

? There’s enough room at the table for 3,000 Applebee’s restaurants, or about double the current number, company officials said Thursday.

Speaking before a room of analysts, Applebee’s CEO Lloyd Hill also said the company’s same-store sales would continue to increase between 3 percent and 4 percent per year and annual earnings per share would grow between 14 percent and 17 percent.

Hill added that the company could do all this without starting or acquiring another restaurant concept.

“We are more confident than we’ve ever been that our singular focus on the Applebee’s brand has produced the results that you’ve seen over the past few years, and we do not intend to dilute from that focus,” he said.

The Overland Park-based company, which now owns or franchises 1,633 restaurants, said two years ago that it ultimately would grow to 2,300 restaurants.

On Thursday, Hill said officials had been too conservative then and didn’t have a feel for how much more they could penetrate key markets.

“Our franchise partners have been pushing us for years about the 2,300, saying that number was low,” said CFO Steve Lumpkin. “I think our franchisees have seen the success they’ve had with this brand and they’ve been pushing us to get more assertive about a bigger vision for what this brand can become.”

There are two Applebee’s restaurants in Lawrence, at 2520 Iowa and 3900 W. Sixth St.