A favorite Julia Stewart recipe plus the transcript of 360's interview with the DineEquity CEO
Apple, Sausage and Parsnip Stuffing with Fresh Sage – 12 Servings
1 1½ -pound loaf sliced sourdough bread with crust, cubed
1½ pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1½ pounds hot Italian sausages, casings removed
6 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, divided
3 pounds Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cubed
2 pounds parsnips, peeled, cubed
¾ cup packed fresh sage leaves
½ cup Riesling Wine
Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake bread cubes on 2 large rimmed baking sheets until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes.
Sauté sausages in very large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking into pieces with spoon, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl; add bread.
Add onions and celery to same skillet and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes; transfer to bowl with bread. Melt ¼ cup butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes; mix apples into stuffing. Melt ¼ cup butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add parsnips and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes; mix into stuffing. Melt ¼ cup butter in same skillet. Add sage and sauté until dark green, about 2 minutes. Mix sage and butter into stuffing. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter 15x10x2 – inch glass baking dish.
*Secret: sauté cleaned leaves of celery and put them in stuffing (gives it unbelievable flavor).
Transfer stuffing to prepared dish; drizzle with ½ cup wine. Cover with foil. (Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours).
Before putting in over – remove celery leaves. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake stuffing covered until heated through, about 1 hour. Uncover and bake until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
360 editor Coleen Geraghty visited DineEquity's corporate headquarters in Glendale, Calif., for this exclusive interview with Julia Stewart, CEO of IHOP and Applebee's.
What do you remember most vividly about your days as a student at SDSU?
I worked while I went to school. I don’t remember that I missed out on anything, but I learned time management skills. Looking back, I can’t believe I did it all and it was fun and invigorating. One of my fondest memories is of Dr. Haverstroh, who taught advertising and marketing, how he mixed the academic with the community involvement. That’s what SDSU has always been known for and still is. I remember thinking how wonderful to get all this exposure and how ironic that I would come to be in the restaurant business years later. We were creating this draw between the community and the college. I can’t tell you how many projects I did that required me to go into the community and do interviews.
Another vivid memory I have is of my ethics class, for which we had to create an ethical construct of ourselves. I remember being touched by a woman in the class who got up and said, “Everything about me is that I’m a recovering alcoholic.” There was dead silence in the class. That was an important day for me because not only was I privileged to learn from this woman, but there was the personal realization that school isn’t just about learning from a textbook or interviewing the community. It’s also learning about the inner workings of one’s self and other people, about integrity and what makes a person real. It was a turning point for me, a realization that I will embrace others who are willing to give of themselves. There’s more to education than getting a degree – it’s about giving back and paying it forward. These are lessons I incorporate today as I teach and as I lead.
I graduated with a very small communications class and most of them went into sales or became attorneys or teachers. I was at this big school in this big city and yet I never felt more at home or with family. I’ve always given a lot of credit to the teachers. In fact, that family feeling is why I transferred. I started out at Santa Barbara with a full ride scholarship and after a year I transferred because SDSU had the reputation of being more familial. At UCSB, you sat in a huge class and met with the TA afterward to figure out what the lecturer said. I disliked that environment. It wasn’t the way I wanted to learn. For me learning was the experiential, the engagement, the interchange the dialogue and I loved that about State. I was on the speech team and I always felt someone was going to ask me, “how’s it going,” like a cross between having a parent and a brother/sister at hand. I remember thinking how special that felt.
How did you acquire the nickname Velvet Hammer?
The Velvet Hammer – I view it as a compliment. It comes from When I first started here at IHOP eight years ago, there was a lot of change needed. I was trying to build this company so I was giving some tough input, yet my style of being a very caring individual was coming through. And the head of our board of advisors was interviewed and said, “We all call her the Velvet Hammer.” It didn’t offend me. I viewed it as a compliment and a pretty accurate description of somebody who had to be tough for a lot of the change to happen. Leadership is tough, change is not always popular. At the time, it was absolutely critical to change this organization that was not used to nor welcomed change. Today that name isn’t used as much because the company is much more accepting and looking for leadership. People self-selected out and we’re in a very different place now than we were 10 years ago. And it’s a place I’m very proud of.
What are three or four words your customers would use to describe the restaurants?
That’s a great question. I think for IHOP, they would say the blue roof; genuine and warm and real; the best pancakes in America. For Applebee’s, neighborhood; fun; family; create your own experience.
At IHOP, the team has worked very hard to introduce items that differentiate us from everyone else, and in the next five years you’ll see that even more. We have a test pipeline with 24 months worth of items at IHOP and 18 months at Applebee’s.
My job is to give a high level vision of what we’re looking to do in the next several years and have the teams work on how to get us there. The biggest change at Applebee’s is a real clear vision of what we want to be about. Hiring mike archer to lead the Applebee’s team has defined the vision. I think there was a lot of confusion about who we were both at Applebee’s and at IHOP when I first got here. The real difference you can make as a leader—and the difference I hope I’ve made is to present the vision and the direction. Then get out of the way. Let people create the strategies and tactics and bring them to life.
In our environment, because we’re largely franchise, we’re creating that leadership and direction for the franchisees. Every day they want to execute against a brand they understand, they want to live the brand. Whether it’s the service, the food, the advertising, the ambiance; they all filter through this brand position. So, if you don’t have clarity about what you want to stand for as a brand, good luck. It’s difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be very successful. I happen to think we’re very good at it. At the core, you absolutely have to differentiate yourself from everyone else. At IHOP, it’s all about family dining and at Applebee’s, it’s all about casual dining. In both those segments, about 75 percent of the market share is independent.
Every day people see the big chains and they think we compete mainly against the big chains. You might say that from an advertising perspective, but from an on-the-ground operating perspective, we’re competing against the independents. Often times, it matters where you live. In New Jersey, you talk about the diners and the coffee shops. If you’re in Ohio, it’s Bob Evans. Each general manager is positioning the brand in a different environment, and so the more crisp and clear you can be about that brand positioning, the more likely you are to be successful. That is what I think of as a competitive advantage. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Susie in Nebraska or Tom in Minnesota, we’re so clear about the brand that you’re able to interpret it to your employees day in and day out.