Like a lot of struggling fast casual restaurants, Chili’s experienced a same-store sales drop of 2.3% at company-owned stores during the last quarter.
But all is not lost for the fun purveyor of burgers, ribs and fajitas!
Brinker International Inc. (EAT) Dallas — the parent company of Chili’s and corporate sibling Maggiano’s Little Italy — recently had its quarterly earnings call and revealed what it’s doing to reverse the decline.
Here’s what’s new at Chili’s
If you like to dine beneath the iconic chili pepper, here’s what you can look forward to…
Like your protein? You’ll get more of it at Chili’s!
The company jumped on the hot smashburger trend popularized by the chain of the same name. Chili’s own version of a smashburger is distinguised by “a new cooking procedure that produces a juicier product and cuts the cook time nearly in half,” according to President and CEO Wyman Roberts.
Chili’s has also doubled down on its popular Chicken Crispers. New flavors such as Honey Chipotle Chicken & Waffles and Buffalo Bleu Cheese have been a big hit with customers.
“Since we went on air with Crispers, the category mix has nearly doubled and guests are responding very favorably to the new products,” Roberts relays.
Want another big dose of protein? Order the fajitas!
“We upgrade[d] our fajitas with nearly 50% more protein and the addition of rice and beans with every entrée,” the CEO notes.
Takeout customers won’t even have to leave their cars
If you’re a fan of Chili’s takeout, we’ve got some good news for you! The company is exploring the possibility of curbside service via upgraded functionality in its app.
You’ll be able to order and pay through the app and then notify Chili’s when you arrive. An employee will then bring your food out to you — so you never even have to get out of your car!
“It’s in test now and getting great response from guests and we’ve planned to launch it at the end of this fiscal year,” Roberts says.
The cost of a popular dinner option has creeped up by $2
Financial analysts lobbed several questions at Roberts over Chili’s decision to raise the price on the popular “two for $20” dinner option.
With a $2 price hike, the deal is now “two for $22” at your local Chili’s. Roberts defended the decision, noting that it’s “still the most popular category on the menu.”
“I think, competitively, if you look at our value platform at dinner at two for $22 now, what’s unique about it versus others in the category is we still have solid proteins on there,” the CEO notes. “There’s a steak on there, there’s ribs on there.”
Limited-time offers are out, everyday value is in
Chili’s still wants to offer bang for the buck to its customers, but the chain sees everyday value as the key — not a lot of promotional pricing.
“From a value perspective, we believe limited time offers are not the best way to drive our business. They increase complexity for our operations and add confusion for guests,” Roberts says.
“We think a more sustainable strategy is to offer consistent, quality, craveable products at a compelling everyday value. We already have flexible value platforms at both lunch and dinner, and consumers give us a lot of credit for providing best-in-class value.”
Maggiano’s is undergoing it biggest menu change in 25 years
Brunch is the word on the tip of everyone’s tongue at Chili’s corporate sibling, Maggiano’s Little Italy. For the first time since the restaurant was created, Maggiano’s has introduced Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Weekend diners can enjoy five new varieties of eggs benedict — Meatball Benedict; Crab Cake Benedict; Nueske’s Smoked Ham Benedict; Smoked Salmon and Spinach Benedict; and Chicken Francese Benedict.
There’s also a newly revamped menu available everyday at Maggiano’s.
“The new menu highlights the brand’s scratch kitchen and introduces new chef-inspired pasta and entrée selections like our new Denver Steak,” Roberts says. “It’s hand cut, in-house by our chefs. This steak has outperformed expectations and it gives us a competitive value advantage in the steak category.”