Leverage its existing infrastructure, Brinker International launched It's Just Wings, its first virtual brand, in 1,050 Chili's and Maggiano's in late June.
“Sales continue to build every week, and we clearly see the potential to exceed $150 million in the brand's first year, which would secure It's Just Wings a spot in the top 200 restaurant brands,” said Wyman Roberts, Chief Executive Officer and President of Brinker International, in an earnings call with analysts.
Brinker International provided a business update related to the first quarter of fiscal 2021 and announced results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2020 ended June 24, 2020.
"Our continued strategic focus on value, off-premise, digital and scale is allowing us to successfully navigate through the pandemic," said Roberts. "Leaning into these existing strategies with a clear focus and continually prioritizing the safety of our Team Members and Guests has allowed us to accelerate our performance and deliver industry leading results."
As of July 29, 885 Chili's and 52 Maggiano's company-owned restaurants with dining rooms or patios open, representing 84% of total company-owned restaurants.
A full earnings release is available here.
“We were leading the way in the digital space long before the pandemic,” said Roberts. “Over the past decade, we've made significant investments to build our digital infrastructure, foster connections with guests, and enabling us to quickly respond to their evolving dining needs.”
Brinker is leveraging its 8 million member loyalty database, check level purchasing insight from its tabletop devices while it continues to add features to its 5-star app, such as one-tap reorder of the guest’s frequently ordered items.
Last year Brinker integrated DoorDash into its POS system and e-commerce experience. The company is among those brands including Chipotle that have shifted its marketing spend away from traditional TV advertising to digital, “where we continuously test and learn to increase e-commerce conversions,” said Roberts, adding that “… digital sales of off-premise meals have grown from low teens to more than 50% in the fourth quarter, with only a slight dip as dining rooms reopen,” said Roberts.
With this pivot to digital marketing, Brinker has driven increased frequency through its takeout and delivery channels at a fraction of the marketing expense.
Just Winging It
With It’s Just Wings up and running, Brinker is leveraging its existing infrastructure and its partnership with DoorDash. ”We get to leverage all of the expertise we have in our restaurants, in terms of culinary ability. We get to leverage the equipment that we already have,” said Roberts.
It’s early days but the wing concept so far is proving to be sticky, with a 30% plus reorder in the first six to seven weeks, which is significantly high, explains Roberts.
And other virtual brands are in the works. “We're testing additional virtual concepts and learning how to drive visibility among the millions of DoorDash guests looking for food delivery options and how to continually improve our operations to meet consumer demand for speed, food quality and value. We are pleased to have not one but two brands that rank among the most popular on the DoorDash platform, and we're excited about the potential that lies ahead,” said Roberts.