IHOP, Applebee’s parent taps acting CIO into permanent role

Dive Brief:

  • Dine Brands Global, the parent company for IHOP and Applebee’s, appointed Justin Skelton as CIO, the company announced this week. He joined the company in 2019 as VP of IT infrastructure and operations, and most recently served as Dine Brands’ CIO in an acting capacity. 
  • Skelton will report directly to CFO Thomas Song and will aid in sustaining “a technology infrastructure that supports and enables all restaurants,” as part of the company’s long-term growth strategy. 
  • Skelton served as VP of infrastructure, support and operations at CVS Health. He also held leadership positions at Bank of America, where he was SVP and CIO within the insurance services division, and CTO for the bank’s home loans and insurance division.

Dive Insight:

At 95% of companies, COVID-19 upended CIOs’ previously outlined tech goals, shifting focus to carrying operations forward. As they reevaluate their priorities for the rest of the year, tech execs must use business goals as a guide post to decide where to allocate resources — and where to press the pause button.

Skelton stepped into the role as the permanent replacement of Adrian Butler, who served as CIO of Dine Brands between 2015 and 2020. Earlier this month, Butler joined Casey’s General Stores as CIO, a newly created role at the convenience retailer.

Dine Brands is looking to Skelton to maintain the infrastructure that enable off-premise services — such as delivery, carryout and curbside pickup. A focus on these services is helping chains keep restaurants’ doors open through the stress of the pandemic. 

CIO Justin Skelton

Courtesy of Dine Brands Global

At the end of May, two-thirds of diners were still wary of spending time indoors even as stay-at-home orders were eased, according to a survey from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business. Almost half of respondents said they’d wait at least one to three months before dining in with another person, CIO Dive’s sister site Restaurant Dive reported.

In the two quarters ahead, CIOs stance on tech investments will vary across industries, depending on how much their operations were impacted. For some businesses, demand is skyrocketing, prompting tech leaders to enable growth. In other spaces, such as travel and entertainment, tech priorities are centered around survival.

Empowered by off-premise operations, restaurants fall into a middle category, in which tech leaders are returning to their priorities after using technology to respond to the immediate challenges of the pandemic. 

Dine Brands franchisees “were able to pivot to a to-go and delivery-only model with minimal operational disruption,” said CEO Steve Joyce during the company’s Q1 2020 earnings call in April. “Technology and innovation have played important roles in our off-premise strategy,” he said.

Boosting delivery and catering are two ways Dine Brands prepared to push back on slipping traffic metrics in 2019.