Chili’s Grill & Bar is hoping that less is more.
The casual dining chain has axed roughly 40 percent of its menu. If you’re a fan of their mango tilapia and crispy asparagus, you’re out of luck. Chili’s is betting customers are too distracted by the bigger burgers and meatier ribs to notice the missing items.
Chili’s says this will simplify operations and improve the quality of the remaining items as it navigates an increasingly crowded and competitive restaurant landscape. The company spent about a year figuring out which menu items to keep.
In the end, many of the subtractions were dishes that Chili’s had added while chasing foodie fads, Chief Marketing Officer Steve Provost said. (A fried cauliflower appetizer didn’t make the cut, while chicken-fried steak stayed due to its popularity in Texas and New Mexico.)
“Quinoa, kale — all those trends come and go,” he said. “But what Americans want to eat doesn’t change that much. It’s the expectations that have changed.”
There’s a lot on the line: Shares of Brinker International Inc., which operates about 1,300 Chili’s locations and the Maggiano’s Little Italy chain, have plunged 40 percent this year. Casual dining chains are getting crushed by competition from fast-casual concepts and grocery-store food offerings.
At Chili’s, customer traffic has dropped each of the last two years, and the struggles extend to competitors like Applebee’s and TGI Fridays, according to Michael Halen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
“They’re not giving people what they want,” he said. “There’s a ton of competition and they haven’t been in tune with what millennials want — they’re getting beat up in a lot of different wants.”
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.