Chili's considering pizza platform

by Eric Schroeder
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DALLAS — A strong value proposition combined with some additional media spending helped drive a sixth consecutive quarter of positive comp sales at Chili’s, a brand of Dallas-based Brinker International, Inc. Going forward, Chili’s plans to continue that growth trend with a  number of initiatives, including the potential launch of a pizza platform.

Wyman Roberts, president of Chili’s Grill & Bar, in an Oct. 24 conference call with analysts, called the pizza platform testing “probably the worst-kept secret out there.”

“It’s been in 41 restaurants for more than a month now, and the results are encouraging,” Mr. Roberts said of the pizza testing. “This is just one of many platforms we’re exploring with this new equipment, and we’re learning everything we can about potential new products through a multi-staged testing process to ensure that whatever items we launch system-wide can be executed consistently and achieve high satisfaction and value scores from our guests.”

The new equipment Mr. Roberts referred to are impinger ovens, which most bar and grills do not have. The ovens may give Chili’s a leg-up in differentiating its menu lineup.

In a follow-up answer to an analyst’s question, Mr. Roberts noted pizza is one of several test platforms in place to see what products made on the restaurant chain’s new kitchen equipment resonate best with consumers.

“We’re experimenting, if you will, or testing several different ideas,” he said. “Pizza is one of them. So far I would just say it’s encouraging. Guests are enjoying the product, and we’re now just learning more about it, and we’ll determine later on as to whether or not we roll with that or not.”

Overall net income at Brinker in the first quarter ended Sept. 26 was $27,864,000, equal to 38c per share on the common stock, up 18% from $23,621,000, or 29c per share, during the same quarter of the previous year. Total revenue at Brinker during the quarter was $683,507,000, up 2% from $668,402,000 during the same quarter of the previous year.
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