DineEquity, Inc., parent company of Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and IHOP Restaurants, announced the sale of the assets of Apple Restaurants, Inc. to existing Applebee’s franchisee, Neighborhood Restaurant Partners, LLC.

The sale includes 40 Applebee’s franchise-operated establishments in the greater Atlanta area.

Glendale-based DineEquity, Inc. franchises and operates more than 3,500 Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and IHOP brands through its subsidiaries and is one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the world.

Julia Stewart, chairman and CEO of DineEquity, Inc., said the transaction was special in that it involved Bill Palmer, the founder of Applebee’s.

"Today's announcement serves as confirmation of our franchise community's confidence in our efforts to revitalize Applebee's and the strength of the brand,” Stewart said.

Neighborhood Restaurant Partners, LLC was formed in 2010 by Argonne Capital, a private investment firm. The franchise company began with the acquisition of eight Applebee’s restaurants in San Antonio, TX. It will now add 40 restaurants to its portfolio.

"Affiliates of Argonne already franchise or license a combined 260 IHOP and Applebee's restaurants. Our decision to further our relationship with DineEquity is a result of our confidence in the leadership provided by management," said Michael Klump, founder and President, Argonne Capital Group.