Brinker Tests Small-Footprint, Off-Premise Designs in Urban Areas

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Courtesy of Chili's Grill and Bar on Facebook.

While Brinker Int’l., the parent company to Chili’s Grill and Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, outpaces the industry in traffic—it just ended its 16th consecutive quarter of traffic outperformance—it’s still looking to build its off-premise sales through a variety of new formats.

The company announced during its second-quarter earnings call on Feb. 2 that it’s testing small-footprint, off-premise-centric designs for densely populated markets that “don’t make sense” for full-sized prototypes.

As for now, two such small-footprint locations are set to open by college campuses—one in Dallas and one in Columbus, Ohio—that will be slightly larger, between 1,500 and 1,800-sq.-ft., and off-premise focused. The company also recently opened its first urban kitchen in Manhattan, N.Y., in a third-party kitchen that offers Chili’s and the virtual brand It’s Just Wings.

“And I never thought I’d see the day when I’d see a Chili’s in Manhattan. But it’s been up and running for a month, and we’re encouraged by its early performance. Our size and scale are uniquely suited to enable growth through this vehicle,” says Wyman Roberts, CEO and president of Brinker, during the call.

Through formats such as these, Brinker CFO Joe Taylor says the company will be able to penetrate urban markets, which respond “extremely well” to off-premise, both to-go and delivery. He also noted that there may be some fill-in markets on the suburban side that these formats may go into.

“It’s just opening up a fairly large, addressable market by thinking a little bit differently … That’s one of the COVID takeaways is that off-premise is a bigger component of what we will do going forward. So, we want to make sure we’re taking full advantage of that consumer shift,” says Taylor.

The company says its takeout and delivery sales remain in the mid-30% range, up double-digits from pre-COVID.

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