Dine Brands Global Inc. announced Thursday it has started a search for its next chief executive.

The Glendale franchisor of restaurant chains Applebee’s and IHOP has retained executive search firm Spencer Stuart, based in Chicago, to help it find a successor for Chief Executive Steve Joyce, whose employment contract expires in February 2021.

The company’s board said it would evaluate both an internal and external pool of candidates.

“We appreciate Steve’s considerable contributions to Dine Brands during a critical period for the company accentuated by this current crisis,” said Chairman Richard Dahl in a statement.

Joyce was chosen as chief executive in August 2017 – the company then was known as DineEquity. He has been a board member since 2012. Previously, Joyce was chief executive of Choice Hotels International Inc., a publicly traded 6,500-unit hotel franchise based in Rockville, Md. He is credited with navigating the firm successfully through the Great Recession.

Joyce said in a statement he’s proud of the growth Dine Brands enjoyed during his tenure

"Since 2017, we have established and executed on strategic plans, strengthened the franchisee base, completed a $1.3 billion securitization transaction and returned significant capital to stockholders,” he said.

Shares of Dine Brands (DIN) closed Friday down $3.52, or 7 percent, at $45.39 on the New York Stock Exchange.