We Tried The New Smokey Applebee's Steak And Came Away Surprised

DineEquity is looking to put some sizzle back into the sales at its Applebee's restaurant chain after several challenging quarters.
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DineEquity (DIN) - Get Report is looking to put some sizzle back into the sales at its Applebee's restaurant chain after several challenging quarters. And to do so, the restaurant operator is wagering that Americans would rather pay a few bucks more to eat wood-fired grilled steak, salmon and pork instead of proteins served over a lifeless gas grill. Over the past few months, Applebee's has replaced its boring gas grills with new wood-fired grills that use American Oak at all of its 1,900 U.S. locations. The move will change the taste and flavor profile of about 40 percent of the items on the Applebee's menu. Applebee's is also converting to USDA Choice steaks from ones that were not graded. Servers have been trained to properly highlight the differences of the new wood-fired grilled menu to customers. Meanwhile, Applebee's has trained 6,000 meat cutters to now slice beef that no longer comes in frozen off a truck. The overall investment in the grills, training and marketing - a cool $75 million. TheStreet sampled the new wood-fired grilled menu at the world's biggest Applebee's in New York City, and came away generally impressed. Is the sirloin comparable in quality to ones found at fine-dining establishments or the local hipster BBQ joint that has lines around the block? Not exactly. But, the steak was juicy, easy to cut and chew and had a hint of the smokey flavor advertised on TV. TheStreet's Brian Sozzi reports from New York.