With another declining quarter of comparable restaurant sales, Chili’s is turning to guest convenience and a simplified menu to attract guests.
Same-restaurant sales were down 2.3 percent for Q3, and company sales were down 2 percent to $689.6 million. The restaurant’s performance is in line with the rest of the casual dining segment, which is seeking ways to regain traffic often through technology and value.
“Casual dining is under more pressure now than ever to win consumers’ hearts and minds,” Brinker International Restaurants president and CEO Wyman Roberts said in a conference call Tuesday. “The bulk of our focus in 2018 is going to be on the menu and the service aspect.”
Roberts said for Chili’s to outperform in the segment, it must focus on its menu as well as the consistency on how the brand can deliver an experience to consumers.
“Things like technology are ways we think we can overcome challenges in casual dining,” he said.
Chili’s will roll out features for its digital curbside service that will allow users to order, pay, and notify the restaurant when they’re in the parking lot so staff can bring out the food to the car.
The brand is also testing a menu with 20 percent fewer items that it plans to launch early next year. Roberts says the menu will decrease back-of-house labor and operational complexity, allowing for guests to receive food more quickly. Chili’s recent menu updates including the Smokehouse combos, which feature in-house smoked meats, and the $10 “Three for Me” Deal, which have been performing positively with guests. Limited time offers are not the best way to drive brand growth, Roberts says, creating confusion for guests and complexity for restaurant operations.
Brinker revenues, which include Maggiano’s, were down 1.7 percent to $810.6 million in Q3. Maggiano’s experienced a comparable restaurant sales decrease of 1.6 percent for the quarter. The brand recently launched weekend brunch service at all 52 locations.