Gustin graduated from John Carroll Catholic High School and played football while at the University of Alabama. He worked at his brother's barbecue restaurant before moving taking a job at the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. He later operated ABA Distributors in Kansas City before buying his first restaurant franchise. He owned 18 Taco Bell locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Discouraged from expanding his Taco Bell holdings, Gustin instead partnered with W. R. Grace & Company in the second-ever franchise of the Applebee's restaurant chain in 1986. In 1988 he and John Hamra bought out Grace's stake and founded Applebee's International, going public in 1989. The company, now known as Appelbee's Services Inc., currently operates more than 2,000 locations. Gustin retired in 2000.
Gustin died in 2010 and was survived by his wife, Linda, three children and nine grandchildren. He is interred at Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Overland Park, Kansas.
- Keegan, Peter O. (September 20, 1993) "Abe J. Gustin Jr.: 'risk-taking' type of guy." Nation's Restaurant News
- Prewitt, Milford (August 5, 1996) "Abe Gustin: making Applebee's a winner." Nation's Restaurant News
- Smith, Joyce (October 8, 2010) "Applebee’s International co-founder Abe J. Gustin Jr. dies at 75." Kansas City Star