What is in this article?:
- Brinker reveals new menu, growth plans
- What's coming from Brinker
Plans include new flatbreads at Chili’s and a smaller prototype for Maggiano’s
Brinker International Inc. executives said Wednesday they would continue to grow the casual-dining company’s revenue through a variety of avenues, including new pizza and flatbread products at Chili’s Grill & Bar, a smaller prototype for Maggiano’s Little Italy and continued international expansion.
The 1,593-unit company also revealed an expanded home-delivery test for Chili’s and a fast-casual Chili’s Express unit for nontraditional and expensive real estate sites during its Investor Conference, which was held at the company’s headquarters in Dallas and aired via a webcast.
Wyman Roberts, Brinker’s president and chief executive, acknowledged that the casual-dining category faces pressures, but the company still intended to make targets of 3–5 percent revenue growth.
“The category is under attack,” Roberts said. “We know casual-dining is not the bright, shining star that it used to be and that there is pressure. There is pressure from fast casual. There is pressure from casual-plus.”
However, he said, “We believe that casual dining — and bar and grill — is still a very viable category. It’s big. And more importantly, everything we know about the consumer says that they still want to use casual dining and dining out as a place where they connect with family and friends and fulfill this emotional need they have. And this need isn’t getting less important in people’s lives; it’s getting more important in people’s lives.”
Like many restaurant companies, Chili’s saw sales “significantly soften” in January, Roberts said, citing the Jan. 1 lifting of the payroll tax holiday, delayed federal tax returns and rising gasoline prices. He added that February saw some improvement.
Guy Constant, Brinker’s chief financial officer, said, “As of Feb. 24, quarter-to-date comp sales at Chili’s are running at negative 2.2 percent. Sales at Maggiano’s are essentially flat. And sales in our global system are up more than 4 percent.”
That led Brinker to revise its full-year guidance downward, with comp sales now at 1 percent, down from 2–3 percent. However, cost of sales are expected to be favorable by about 50 basis points and restaurant labor to be favorable by 50 basis points, Constant said.
Roberts said the Chili’s brand, which dominates Brinker’s stable with about 1,550 units, would put “relentless focus” on the guest experience. That experience, he said, is being aided by the two-year-old “team service” model, as well as reimaged restaurants and new menu items from new kitchen equipment that includes combi and impinger ovens.
The following is a breakdown of some of the innovations and growth plans Brinker has in the works.