Chili’s is following through with a plan announced last month to cut its menu by 40 percent and invest millions to improve the quality and value of its core menu items.
Beginning September 18, the casual dining brand will offer a menu pared down from 125 appetizers, entrees, desserts, cocktails, and add-ons to a 75-item menu focusing on burgers, ribs, and fajitas.
“We value every guest and we know that cutting even one entrée like mango chili tilapia, or a delicious appetizer like crispy asparagus could disappoint a guest who loves that dish,” Chili’s president Kelli Valade said in a statement. “But … by eliminating 40 percent of our menu, we’ve reinvested in meatier burgers, ribs, and fajitas—the items that we’ve always been known for.”
In the August conference call announcing the changes, Brinker International president Wyman Roberts said the menu changes will allow Chili’s to get its food out faster while improving the quality to improve traffic. “The bottom line for us: we weren’t getting the traffic we needed,” he said.
Chili’s company owned same-store sales decreased 2.2 percent in its latest quarter, while U.S. franchised locations fell by 0.2 percent.
Roberts used Brinker’s other chain, Maggiano’s Little Italy, as an example.
“Introducing the new menu last quarter significantly improved both sales and traffic trends at Maggiano’s. We leaned into the strength of that brand, leveraged our incredible scratch kitchens to deliver new menu items and in new brunch daypart, and Maggiano’s ended fourth quarter up in sales and gained important market share,” Roberts said. “Now, we’re leaning into the strength of the Chili’s brand by eliminating distractions so we can shine the spotlight on our signature items: burgers, ribs, fajitas, and margaritas.”
The size of the casual dining chain’s menu peaked in January, including “sections devoted to burritos, enchiladas and flatbreads, with ingredients ranging from cauliflower to quinoa.” In the coming week, Chili’s will reveal exactly what’s going away, what’s staying, and what’s being added.
The announcement sent shares up 1.8 percent in early Friday trading, although they’re down more than 38 percent for the year.
Roberts said in August that Chili’s was improving recipes, investing in higher-quality ingredients, larger portions, and new cooking techniques with the pared-down menu. “We believe this new menu will be the catalyst for Chili’s turnaround,” he said.
Chili’s aligned its operations teams, optimized its marketing strategy, and reinforced its supply chain ahead of the launch. Friday’s announcement kicked off what Roberts said will be “an aggressive marketing plan that utilizes national TV, digital and radio … and introducing new breakthrough ad campaign that is uniquely Chili’s.”
Brinker is making leadership changes as well. Longtime Brinker employee Joseph Taylor was named senior vice president and chief financial officer on August 22. He joined the Brinker family in 1999 as vice president of finance, went on to lead corporate affairs, investors relations and most recently served as interim chief financial officer since April.