With a scenic view of the coastline, a family-friendly atmosphere and more than a dozen TV screens for watching sports, a new Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar at 899 E. Spring St. in Signal Hill officially opened for business on Monday, Oct. 14.
Local residents and city officials got a chance to sample menu items and drinks last Saturday for lunch and dinner as part of a “training exercise” for the restaurant’s staff of 150 employees.
Some diners said they were elated to see a new sit-down restaurant in the local area.
Amanda Guevara of Long Beach said she normally has to drive to Cerritos, downtown Long Beach or Lakewood to find a restaurant. After having dinner with friends at the Signal Hill restaurant, she said the food was “good” and the eatery had “great service,” adding that it was her first time trying an Applebee’s.
Joseph Abraham, the restaurant’s general manager, said hundreds of people came through the doors during the preview event and that the response was positive.
“Everybody loved the food,” he said. “They loved the ambience. They loved the service. So, we’ve had some great responses, and we’re very proud of it.”
The restaurant, located amongst nodding oil pumps in the Signal Hill Gateway Center, is now one of 442 locations in the country that are operated by Apple American Group, the largest Applebee’s franchise, which, according to company officials, is looking to expand its presence in the Los Angeles County area.
Abraham said he expects the family-style restaurant to fit right into the community.
Damasio Alvarez, director of operations for Apple American Group, said the restaurant plans to stay involved in the community, whether it’s through supporting sports, city or school programs. He said the company offers a Flapjack Fundraiser in which 50 percent of ticket sales for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays are donated to a specific local charity or organization. “Instead of having a car-wash event, you’re able to invite [people] to come in and have breakfast, and the organization runs the show,” Alvarez said.
The new restaurant also brings new jobs. After nearly 2,000 people applied for positions, the 150 employees hired to be hosts, servers, bartenders and cooks went through a week of training leading up to the restaurant’s opening.
Heather Hallahan, a single-mom from Long Beach, said she was excited to be hired as a bartender after looking for a second job for nearly two years. “The restaurant industry is something I’ve been trying to get into,” she said. “It was cool that they were willing to hire pretty much on personality.”
Signal Hill city officials and community members said the new jobs are also a boost for the local economy.
“They hired 150 employees, and that’s great for the Signal Hill and Long Beach area,” said Signal Hill Mayor Michael Noll, who attended the preview-dinner event.
Also in attendance was Vice Mayor Ed Wilson, who said the restaurant’s opening is a “reflection of the desire to live, work and play in Signal Hill.”
Though he had cast the lone dissenting vote against the Applebee’s request for a building permit because the restaurant would not include a south-facing patio with a view, Wilson said he would like to see more restaurants coming to Signal Hill.
“I would like to see many more restaurants,” he said. “We’ll have to figure out how to do that, but I think that would work well for the city… If you have more choices, more people come.” Terry Rogers, president of the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that the restaurant is in close proximity to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and the industrial area and will bring a new “healthy” restaurant option for local employees, visitors and residents.
“We need another family restaurant for diversity,” she said. “Their menus are fantastic. They bring revenue and created jobs, so I’m excited about Applebee’s being here. I like their management, and I love their restaurant.”
Wilson said he expects the restaurant will likely be a hit with sports fans to catch games during the fall season. “People will have a great time,” he said. “You can come in and watch football games and basketball… I think it’s going to be great.”