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Club Applebee's?

Come for the chicken fingers, stay for the party. How the family-friendly chain is raising the roof
Club Applebee's?
Photograph by Aaron Richter for Bloomberg Businessweek

Aaron Richter for Bloomberg Businessweek

In July, Nick Pirrone and three friends were driving home from a St. Louis Cardinals game when they stopped at an Applebee’s in St. Charles, Mo., for dinner. It was after 10 p.m., and when the teenagers walked into the casual dining restaurant, they didn’t find the traditional family-friendly atmosphere they’d grown up with. Instead, they found a karaoke bar. “There were a lot of people drinking and singing Backstreet Boys,” says Pirrone, who is 18. “The place was packed. There was even a DJ.” The four ate half-price appetizers and were so amused by the revelry that they returned a few weeks later with a group of 14. “It was actually kind of fun,” Pirrone explains. “I mean, there’s not much else to do around here. It’s the suburbs.”