DALLAS — Brinker International, Inc. wants to find the right delivery partner for its Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurant chain. Another Brinker International chain, Maggiano’s Little Italy, already is thriving in that area, with delivery sales growing in the double-digits year-to-date, primarily through third-party partnerships, said Wyman T. Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Brinker International, in an April 30 earnings call.
“We’ve never doubted the potential of delivery,” he said. “It’s just always been, okay, how does this work in our restaurants and how do we make some money off that as well? And we’re starting to overcome some of those hurdles. I always say the Maggiano’s business has got a great delivery business. We’ve had it for, really, almost a decade, and we just continue to kind of now work those systems out for Chili’s.”
He said delivery will take more than just incorporating an iPad into a system. Delivery orders on busy weekends could pose a problem.
“We’ve seen a lot of players skin their knees on the bleeding edge of this burgeoning business, and frankly, for us, it’s been too high a risk as we worked hard the past year to build trust with our guests,” Mr. Roberts said. “Now that our foundational business is strong, we’re committed to figuring out a delivery program that integrates with our system and deliver the high-quality experience to our guests just as they’re experiencing inside the restaurants and with take-out. We’re close to finding a partner capable of managing our scale, one who is just as committed to our guests as well as profits for our shareholders.”
Dallas-based Brinker International posted net income of $49.8 million, equal to $1.33 per share on the common stock, in the third quarter ended March 27, which was up 6% from $46.9 million, or $1.03 per share, in the previous year’s third quarter. Total revenues of $839.3 million were up 3.3% from $812.5 million in the previous year’s third quarter.
Chili’s company-owned comparable restaurant sales increased 2.9% in the third quarter when compared to the previous year’s third quarter, and Chili’s U.S. franchise comparable restaurant sales were up 2%. Company sales for Chili’s increased 3% to $709.8 million from $688.9 million in the previous year’s third quarter.
Maggiano’s company-owned comparable restaurant sales increased 0.4% in the quarter. Company sales were $101.8 million, up 0.2% from $101.6 million in the previous year’s third quarter.
“Our consumers are in a good place,” Mr. Roberts said. “Economically, with record low unemployment and income growth now expanding throughout the middle class, more people are choosing to dine out, which is strengthening our whole industry right now, and we see this into the foreseeable future.
“While this environment does allow some pricing power to help manage costs, we’ve chosen to maintain a tight pricing strategy, staying in our targeted range of 1.5% to 2%, which we did take late this quarter. We believe this discipline further strengthens our value position for the long run versus taking a more aggressive approach to pricing.”
Companywide over the nine-month period ended March 27, Brinker International had net income of $108.2 million, or $2.80 per share on the common stock, which was up 32% from $82.1 million, or $1.76 per share, in the same time of the previous year. Total revenues were $2,383.8 million, up 2.8% from $2,318.3 million.