Chili’s Focuses on Menu to Spark Heightened Customer Engagement

Wyman T. Roberts, CEO of Brinker International, which owns Chili's and Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant chains, knows that Chili’s must be more aggressive in a very competitive marketplace to spark heightened customer engagement and, ultimately, increased brand loyalty.

As a past Platinum Award winner in the Best Technology & Trends in Customer Experience category at the Loyalty360 CX Awards, Chili’s knows what to do to ramp up the customer experience.

During Brinker’ recent fourth-quarter earnings call, Roberts said Chili’s designed a new more relevant look, which was installed in 17 locations, which continue to perform above the brand average, demonstrating the strength and relevance of the brand.

“But around the mid-fiscal year as we moved through the holidays, it became apparent that with the industry dynamics and our performance, we weren’t going to deliver expected results,” he explained. “The bottom line for us, we weren’t getting the traffic we needed and we have to get significantly more aggressive to turn Chili’s around in this environment. Here’s what we know. Chili’s is an unbelievably strong brand with unprecedented awareness levels. People know the Pepper and they love the Baby Back Ribs jingle. These iconic features resonate across demographics and across need states. This isn’t a turnaround of the brand of who we are. It’s a turnaround of how we deliver on what consumers expect from us and it starts with the menu.”

Roberts said Chili’s has to do two things with its menu.

“We have to make the food better and we have to deliver it faster,” Roberts said. “We spent the last quarter evaluating several menu variations in the restaurants that we believe will work much harder to drive traffic. And we only need to look as far as Maggiano’s to prove that can be done.”

Chili’s strengthened its menu by replacing the custom combo section with smokehouse platters, which more than doubled the preference in the category, simplified operations, and increased guest satisfaction.

What’s more, the company invested in its take-out business, replacing its online ordering platform and introducing Curbside-To-Go, which is becoming an increasingly important piece of the business.

“Next month, we’ll implement the new menu with somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent fewer items than we had on it a year ago,” Robert said. “A simpler menu, better quality, faster execution and stronger value, we believe this new menu will be the catalyst for Chili's turnaround. With digital curbside platform now launched in our company-owned restaurants, take-out guests can order, pay, and get their food without ever getting out of their car, all through the Chili’s app. Today, about half our online guests are using it. We’re seeing great satisfaction and check averages are higher than non-curbside orders. And this month, we’ve launched marketing efforts to build awareness.”

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