“We're really pleased with this trend as it demonstrates our ability to meet the consumers' increasing needs for convenience, value, and consistency at a level matched by few other brands,” Wyman said.
For Brinker overall, off-premises sales grew more than 31 percent, year-over-year, and it now represents roughly 17 percent of total sales. Delivery accounted for 4 percent. For Chili’s specifically, delivery mixed closer to 5 percent of the total. Roberts doesn’t anticipate Chili’s handling deliveries in-house—instead, the key going forward is working with DoorDash to leverage marketing opportunities for in-restaurant and out-of-restaurant experiences. Much of it has to do with, Roberts noted, how they partner on databases and building each other’s business through strength of scale.
As far as the actual product, Roberts said, remaining focused on core menu items continues to be critical for Chili’s, a brand that slashed its menu by 40 percent back in 2017. The CEO doesn’t want to get caught up in what he called an “arms race” for new items and fresh initiatives. The brand committed to only bring changes where it makes a difference and when consumers are excited about it, as opposed to chasing short-term trends or trying to provide an item that a small demographic may like for a short period.
“We are totally on board with focus does make a difference,” Roberts said. “And we're seeing that again as, I mentioned, in all of our results. It also allows you to be a little more efficient, because people have that muscle memory. … We continue to not chase. We continue to want to run our race, put the value and the innovation and the consistency and quality components together for our restaurants and our operators to deliver to our guests on a day in, day out basis.”
Roberts said the main strategy is to continually improve the quality of the experience—atmosphere, service, or food. The Brinker leader added that constant work is being done in the culinary center to develop ideas on how to improve products. He used the example of the chicken sandwich, which was upgraded in the first half of fiscal 2020.
“Now, does it turn the business around overnight or might have a huge impact immediately? No,” Roberts said. “Over the long haul, we're seeing that impact, and it's all showing up in better guest satisfaction metrics, right? So our food scores that our guests give us are at all-time highs. And we continue to see that happen because of the changes in the menu as well as our operators executing more consistently to standards. … We absolutely are not looking at any opportunities to save costs and reduce the quality of the product.”