Brinker offers restaurant specials to buck up for 2012

November 4, 2011  

By Ashley Withers
awithers@smu.edu

Chili’s Grill & Bar, the primary brand of Brinker International, Inc., launched a new line of suggestive commercials Monday, giving the restaurant’s new specials some sex appeal.

The ads promote the restaurant’s “$20 Dinner for Two” and $6 lunch combo specials with the help of bluesman John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.”

In the ad, a man walks over to his office crush and asks, “Hey Jill, you want to go to Chili’s tonight?” To which she replies with Hooker’s song, “I love that talk, when you talk like that.”

The highly promoted specials are a big part of Brinker’s strategy for combatting the bad economic climate. Brinker has been working on a five point sales strategy to continue to boost growth, with the lunch and dinner specials as a focal theme.

“We are continuing to bring awareness of these lunch specials and we will continue to change up the specials menu to keep it a fresh and compelling option for customers,” Wyman Roberts, the president of Chili’s Grill & Bar, said during the fourth quarter earnings conference call.

These ads are also a part of the more adult image Chili’s is trying to project for its upcoming fiscal year 2012.

“We’re placing special interest on our bars this year which will further strengthen our business model given the favorable profits of alcohol sales,” Roberts continued during the call.

Brinker’s fiscal fourth quarter ended June 29, revealing small improvement in both Chili’s and the company’s other restaurant chain, Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Despite growth in sales and traffic, Brinker’s revenue remained stagnant between the third and fourth quarters and its total revenue decreased by 3.5 percent from 2010 to 2011. The company notes that this decrease was due to a longer fiscal quarter in 2010. The fourth quarter of 2010 was 14 weeks long, while 2011’s was just 13 weeks.

Brinker’s drop in revenue also reflects the economic climate. Dining out is often one of the first things people who have lost their jobs will cut. The company’s focus on specials and cheaper dining options for the upcoming fiscal year is a part of its strategy to help combat this phenomenon.

Despite decreasing revenue, Brinker did see a dramatic change in operating income between fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Its operating income increased by around 32 percent, a result of the cost of sales and labor decreasing.

“These results prove we are delivering our promises,” CEO Doug Brooks said during the fourth quarter earnings call.

The company also hopes to expand its brand through social media. Chili’s celebrated its millionth “like” on Facebook in August and both restaurant brands, Chili’s and Maggiano’s, have their own Twitter accounts.

“The work we are doing to revitalize our brands will build on our momentum with sales and traffic while we maintain the operational efficiencies of the work we started last fiscal year,” Brooks continued during the earnings call.

However, despite the recent boost of advertising and social media, it seems that meal deals are not the primary reason for customers to frequent Chili’s.

“It [the deal] had nothing to do with it,” Dallas resident John Collins said. “It was just convenient to come here.”

In fact, some patrons were unaware of the specials at all.

“I honestly didn’t know about it,” Brett Briseno, a regular customer of the Chili’s Grill & Bar in Uptown, said. “I wish I would have, though!”

Brinker International is a casual dining company based in Dallas. Brinker currently owns, operates, or franchises 1,579 restaurants under the names Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy worldwide.

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